Take a final look at the interior of the first European Service Module that will power NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Technicians at the Airbus facility in Bremen, Germany installed the final radiators and sealed off the module that will provide power and propulsion to Orion.
No more checking under the hood. With integration complete, the module is ready for its final extensive testing. Engineers will put the module through its paces with functional tests that include checking the newly installed radiators and the propulsion system with its intricate pipelines that deliver fuel and oxidiser to the spacecraft’s 33 engines.
The European Service Module (ESM) is ESA’s contribution to NASA’s Orion that will take astronauts to the Moon and even farther out into space. European expertise and knowhow comes together in this module: it provides power and propulsion, oxygen and water, and temperature control from launch through mission duration to just before reentry.
The module will soon be shipped to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, where it will be mated with NASA’s Crew Module Adaptor and Crew Module, the first time the complete spacecraft will be on display. And then even more tests begin.
The spacecraft will be subjected to intense acoustic vibrations in the world’s largest vacuum chamber at NASA’s Plum Brook facility to ensure it withstands the rigor of launch on the world’s most powerful rocket, NASA’s Space Launch Systems.
The first of Orion’s exploratory missions is an unmanned lunar orbit to validate its capabilities in space.
But there is no resting on laurels for the service module’s technicians. They are already hard at work on the second European Service Module that will be the workhorse carting a crew around the Moon for the second exploratory mission.
In addition to returning humans to the moon, Orion will be instrumental to building the Gateway, a staging post to be located in lunar orbit that will allow humans to go deeper into space.
ESA has already commissioned studies to develop modules for the Gateway. One will look into habitation and research modules while another will create a design concept for an infrastructure element that will accommodate refuelling, telecommunications and an airlock.
Looking beyond, ESA is already working on the technologies needed to accomplish the first round-trip mission to Mars and bring precious samples back to laboratories on Earth, one of the most ambitious exploration challenges so far planned.
Europe is also committed to supporting the International Space Station, our outpost in low Earth orbit, expanding its research potential and benefits for Earth by opening it up for business. With commercial services such as ICE Cubes and the soon-to-launch Bartolomeo external platform, ESA is offering quicker and more affordable access to microgravity research.
Read more about Europe’s vision for space exploration here.