Europe provides the powerhouse for missions that will take astronauts to the Moon Airbus in Bremen leads the European team on behalf of the ESA
The second Airbus-built European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft is ready for delivery from the Airbus site in Bremen, Germany. An Antonov cargo aircraft will fly the ESM-2 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.
European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Airbus as the prime contractor for the development and manufacture of 6 ESMs with the first ESM soon to fly on NASA’s Artemis mission.
The ESM is a key element of Orion, the next-generation spacecraft that will transport astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the 1st time since the end of the Apollo program in the 1970s. The module provides propulsion, power, and thermal control and will supply astronauts with water and oxygen on future missions. The ESM is installed underneath the crew module and together they form the Orion spacecraft.
ESA and NASA
“Delivery of the second European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft marks another huge step forward on the journey to return astronauts to the Moon. Operating hand in hand with our customers ESA and NASA, and our industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Space, the program is moving apace and we are ready to meet the challenges of returning to the lunar surface in 2024,” stated Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus.
ESM-2 underwent a comprehensive validation process before being ready for shipment including gimbal testing of the module’s main engine (which swivels from side to side for maneuvering and directional control during spaceflight). This main engine is a refurbished engine from Space Shuttle Atlantis.
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After completing its trans-Atlantic voyage, ESM-two will be mated with the Orion Crew Module and undergo further extensive testing before integration with the launcher – a process that will take approximately 2 years.
The launch of the 1st Orion spacecraft on NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket will be uncrewed and take the spacecraft more than 64,000 kilometers beyond the Moon to demonstrate its capabilities. The 1st human spaceflight mission, Artemis II, will be powered by ESM-2.
The design of the Orion spacecraft enables astronauts to be transported further into space than ever before. The spacecraft will transport four astronauts, giving life support for the crew during the flight and enabling a safe return to Earth’s atmosphere, at too high re-entry speeds.
- The ESM comprises more than 20,000 parts and components, from electrical equipment to engines, solar panels, fuel tanks, and life support materials, as well as several kilometers of cables and tubing.
European Automated Transfer Vehicle
The ESM is a cylinder almost 4 meters high and wide. Comparable to the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV 2008 – 2015), also built by Airbus, it has a distinctive four-wing solar array (19 meters across when unfurled) that generates enough energy to power 2 households.
At launch, the ESM weighs a capacity of just over 13 tons. In addition to its function as the main propulsion system for the Orion spacecraft, the ESM will be responsible for orbital maneuvering and position management.
It also gives the crew with the central elements of life support such as water and oxygen and regulates thermal control while it is docked to the crew module. Furthermore, the unpressurized service module can be used to carry an additional payload.
In the longer term, it is prepared to dock the Orion spacecraft with the International Lunar Gateway – a Moon orbiting platform that will enable a sustainable space exploration architecture extending humanity’s presence in space.
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