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Forum:Exploration: Asteroids, Moon and Mars
Topic:ESA to supply service module for NASA's Orion
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"Space has long been a frontier for international cooperation as we explore," said Dan Dumbacher, deputy associate administrator for Exploration System Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This latest chapter builds on NASA's excellent relationship with ESA as a partner in the International Space Station, and helps us move forward in our plans to send humans farther into space than we've ever been before."

The agreement primarily maps out a plan for ESA to fulfill its share of operational costs and additional supporting services for the International Space Station by providing the Orion service module and necessary elements of its design for NASA's Exploration Mission-1 in 2017.

There are three major components to the Orion vehicle: the crew capsule, which will carry four astronauts into space on crewed flights and bring them home for a safe landing; the launch abort system, which would pull the crew module to safety in the unlikely event of a life-threatening problem during launch; and the service module, which will house Orion's power, thermal and propulsion systems. The service module is located directly below the crew capsule and will contain the in-space propulsion capability for orbital transfer, attitude control and high-altitude ascent aborts. It also will generate and store power and provide thermal control, water and air for the astronauts. It will remain connected to the crew module until just before the capsule returns to Earth.

"This is not a simple system" said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager. "ESA's contribution is going to be critical to the success of Orion's 2017 mission."

Exploration Mission-1 in 2017 will be the first integrated flight test with both the Orion spacecraft and NASA's new Space Launch System. It will follow the upcoming Exploration Flight Test-1 in 2014, in which an uncrewed Orion will launch atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket and fly to an altitude of 3,600 miles above Earth's surface, farther than a human spacecraft has gone in 40 years. For the flight test, a test service module is being built by Lockheed Martin.

Exploration Mission-1 in 2017 will launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to demonstrate the performance of the integrated Space Launch System rocket and the spacecraft prior to a crewed flight. It will be followed by Exploration Mission-2, which will launch Orion and a crew of four astronauts into space.

"We have a lot to look forward to in the coming years with human exploration," Dumbacher said. "NASA is thrilled to have ESA as a partner as we set out to explore our solar system."

See here for discussion of ESA's provision of the Orion service module.
Robert PearlmanAirbus Defence and Space Group release
ESA commissions Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor for US space capsule Orion service module

Airbus Defence and Space, the world's second space company, has signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the development and construction of the service module for Orion, the future American human space capsule. The contract is worth around 390 million euros. The service module will provide propulsion, power supply, thermal control and the central elements of the life support system of the American capsule.

The contract was signed Nov. 17 in Berlin (Germany), in the presence of Brigitte Zypries, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy.

It is the first time that Europe has been involved in providing system-critical elements for an American space project. In December 2012, US space agency NASA and ESA had agreed to certify the new US Orion spacecraft in conjunction with the European service module. This module is based on the design of and the experience gained from the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) developed and constructed by Airbus Defence and Space on behalf of ESA as a supply craft for the International Space Station.

"This follow-on contract is a mark of confidence in our expertise as well as in our ability to deliver reliable state-of-the-art space systems on time and within budget. Thanks to this programme and the continuous investments we make, we are able to maintain our technological lead," said Fran├žois Auque, Head of Space Systems. "In the wake of the ATV's outstanding five flawless missions to the ISS, this programme is yet another example of the important role that Europe plays globally in the field of human space flight."

Once the system designs for the service module had been approved by the ESA in May 2014, the detailed definition phase began, parallel to the construction of the first hardware. This is set to be completed in November 2015, when ESA approves the detailed design. The qualification and production phases will then begin.

The intention is to use the Orion space capsule for human missions to the Moon, to asteroids and into the depths of space. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is developing and constructing the space capsule for four or more astronauts on behalf of NASA.

Planned for 2017/2018, the first Orion mission in which Europe is involved, "Exploration Mission 1", consists of an unmanned flight to the Lagrangian points of the Moon and a return to Earth. The aim of this mission is not only to demonstrate the spacecraft's performance capabilities before its human deployment, but also to achieve qualification for NASA's new Space Launch System rocket. As part of "Exploration Mission 2", Orion is then scheduled to be launched into space not earlier than 2020 with astronauts on board.

Robert PearlmanEuropean Space Agency (ESA) release
Orion's European module ready for testing

A test version of ESA's service module for NASA's Orion spacecraft arrived in the US yesterday after leaving its assembly site in Italy last weekend.

Above: A look at the propulsion side of the Orion European Service Module (ESM) structural test model. Airbus Defence and Space is preparing to deliver the ESM structural test model to NASA. The model is an exact copy of the flight model, only without the functionality.

The European Service Module is adapted from Europe's largest spacecraft, the Automated Transfer Vehicle, which completed its last mission to the International Space Station in February. Just nine months later, prime contractor Airbus Defence & Space in Bremen, Germany, has delivered the first test module.

The module sits directly below Orion's crew capsule and provides propulsion, power, thermal control, and water and air for four astronauts. The solar array spans 19 m and provides enough to power two households.

A little over 5 m in diameter and 4 m high, it weighs 13.5 tonnes. The 8.6 tonnes of propellant will power one main engine and 32 smaller thrusters.

Above: A test version of ESA's service module for NASA's Orion spacecraft arriving at the Cleveland Hopkins airport in Ohio, USA before continuing by road to NASA's Plum Brook Station.

The structural test article delivered today was built by Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy. Following initial tests in Europe, it will now undergo rigorous vibration tests in NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio to ensure the structure and components can withstand the extreme stresses during launch.

"This is the first major element of the European Service Module to be delivered to the US," notes Philippe Deloo, ESA's programme manager, "demonstrating the commitment of ESA to this human exploration endeavour."

More than 20 companies around Europe are working on the project, most building on their expertise earned from the five Automated Transfer Vehicles that delivered cargo to the Space Station and reboosted its orbit from 2009 to 2015.

Above: A test version of ESA's service module for NASA's Orion spacecraft at Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, before shipping to USA.

The first, uncrewed, launch of the full Orion vehicle is planned for 2018 with the first European Service Module. It will fly beyond the Moon and back, returning to Earth at higher speeds than any other previous spacecraft.

During the mission, the module will detach shortly before entry into Earth's atmosphere.

See here for discussion of ESA's provision of the Orion service module.

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