17 October 2023

Australian companies selected to supply components for next crewed Moon mission

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Orion spacecraft

Concept art of the Orion spacecraft as it rounds the Moon. Image: Lockheed Martin.

Two Australian precision manufacturing companies have been selected to become part of the global supply chain for the Orion spacecraft, a key component of NASA’s Artemis missions to the Moon.

Adelaide-based Axiom Precision Manufacturing and the Nupress Group from Newcastle in NSW were selected by Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the Orion spacecraft, as suppliers for its Global Supply Chain program.

Both companies are suppliers for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 global supply chain and were identified by the American giant’s Office of Australian Industrial Participation team as potential partners for the Orion program.

They were selected following a rigorous evaluation process, which focused on their cost-saving proposals, customer responsiveness and reduced lead times.

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“Axiom and Nupress exemplify the vast industrial capability available in Australia,” Chief Executive of Canberra-based Lockheed Martin Australia and New Zealand, Warren McDonald said. “Their commitment to quality and innovation aligns perfectly with Lockheed Martin’s dedication to delivering excellence.

“This is an example of how the Global Supply Chain program has allowed us to partner with and provide opportunities for Australian industry to shape the future of defence and space exploration,” Mr McDonald added.

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) is a reusable spacecraft that will carry astronauts to the Moon atop NASA’s new Space Launch Systems (SLS) rocket, the most powerful rocket ever designed.

Similar to but larger than the Apollo command and service module of the 1960s and 70s, the Orion MPCV consists of a command module and a service module capable of supporting a four-person crew for up to 21 days. The cylindrical service module is manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space, while the flattened cone-shaped Orion crew module is a reusable capsule that carries the crew and has a docking port for crew transfers.

The crew module is the only part of the spacecraft that returns to Earth after a mission.

SLS Rocket

Artemis I’s SLS with the Orion spacecraft on top sits on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Photo: NASA.

Lockheed Martin has been awarded a contract by NASA to manufacture up to 12 Orion spacecraft divided into three or four different orders, with an option for an additional six vehicles.

The 25-day uncrewed Artemis I mission flew in November and December 2022, with the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft successfully launching and flying out beyond the Moon before returning safely to Earth.

The first crewed Artemis II mission is scheduled to take place in late 2024. While it won’t land on the Moon, the 10-day flight will travel further than any previous crewed space mission, and is planned to validate the Orion spacecraft’s systems.

Artemis III will be the first crewed mission to land on the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1973 and is currently scheduled for 2025.

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“Axiom is proud to contribute to the Orion spacecraft program,” Axion General Manager Craig Maynard said. “This new partnership with Lockheed Martin exemplifies our dedication to precision, innovation and embracing complex challenges, and we look forward to our expanding role in advancing space exploration.”

CEO of Nupress Craig McWilliam added: “Nupress is honoured to strengthen our partnership with Lockheed Martin through the Orion spacecraft program. This opportunity reinforces our commitment to world-class manufacturing that delivers successful outcomes. We are excited to continue our journey in the space sector and work with Lockheed Martin to support NASA’s missions to the Moon.”

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