The Orion laser facility at AWE in the UK began operations at the start of 2012 to study high energy density physics. It consists of ten nanosecond beam lines and two sub-picosecond beam lines. The nanosecond beam lines each deliver 500 J per beam in 1ns at 351nm with a user-definable pulse shape between 0.1ns and 5ns. The short pulse beams each deliver 500J on target in 500fs with an intensity of greater than 1021 Wcm-2 per beam. All beam lines have been demonstrated, delivering a pulse to target as described. A summary of the design of the facility will be presented, along with its operating performance over the first year of experimental campaigns. The facility has the capability to frequency-double one of the short pulse beams, at sub aperture, to deliver a high contrast short pulse to target with up to 100J. This occurs post-compression and uses a 3mm thick, 300mm aperture KDP crystal. The design and operational performance of this work will be presented. During 2012, the laser performance requirements have been demonstrated and key diagnostics commissioned; progress of this will be presented. Target diagnostics have also been commissioned during this period. Also, there is a development program under way to improve the contrast of the short pulse (at the fundamental) and the operational efficiency of the long pulse. It is intended that, from March 2013, 15% of facility operating time will be made available to external academic users in addition to collaborative experiments with AWE scientists.