These 3 Orion spacecraft will carry Artemis astronauts to the moon (photo)

three cone-shaped spacecraft beside each other in a big white hanger. the american flag and the logo for lockheed martin are on the wall
From left to right: The Orion spacecraft for the Artemis 2, Artemis 3 and Artemis 4 moon missions at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit: NASA/Marie Reed)

Three crew-carrying spacecraft are getting ready for their big moon missions.

The Orion capsules for the Artemis 2, Artemis 3 and Artemis 4 moon missions are coming together at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida under stewardship of contractor Lockheed Martin.

"The future of @NASA_Orion is looking pretty good," Lockheed officials wrote on Twitter Friday (July 14) of the three spacecraft, each of which is expected to ferry astronauts to the moon starting in late 2024 or so. 

Related: Four for the moon! NASA names Artemis 2 astronaut crew for 1st lunar mission since Apollo

Artemis 2 will send Orion the moon in November 2024 with an already-named crew of four astronauts, while we are still awaiting word of who will fly the Artemis 3 and 4 missions for later in the decade. 

Artemis 2 includes NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Koch, along with Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen. Artemis 3 and 4 will both include astronauts from NASA and the European Space Agency.

Artemis 3 is currently scheduled to launch in 2025 or 2026, pending readiness of the SpaceX Starship system that will ferry some of the crew to the surface. Artemis 4 would then follow later in the 2020s, if current schedules hold.

Lockheed Martin is under contract to deliver Orion spacecraft for future Artemis moon missions across several delivery orders. In recent years, the orders for Artemis 3 through 5 had values of $2.7 billion, while Artemis 6 through 9's order is worth $1.9 billion. Lockheed officials previously stressed that building the spacecraft in groups allows them the company realize cost savings via production efficiencies.

Not shown in the new picture is the Orion spacecraft for Artemis 1, which aced an uncrewed trip to lunar orbit late last year to prepare for these human missions. Nor is the first-ever Orion produced for space visible; it circled Earth in 2014 on a test flight.

NASA and 26 other nations are signed on to the Artemis Accords, which aim to establish norms for peaceful lunar exploration. Canada and the European Space Agency have both committed to providing hardware for Artemis and the planned Gateway space station that NASA plans for the moon in the 2020s.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: