The European Service Module-2 (ESM-2) storage tanks for propulsion for the Orion spacecraft. The spacecraft will transport humans back to the Moon, roughly fifty years after humankind first landed on its surface.
In assembly at Airbus in Bremen, Germany, ESM-2 is the engine of the Orion spacecraft that will fly its second mission and first with a crew. The mission is called Artemis 2 and is set for launch in 2022. Each Service Module has four 2000 l tanks to provide fuel to the engines.
The first European Service Module arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in November 2018. It has since been mated with the Crew Module Adapter and Crew Module and the trio went for thermal and balance testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Facility in Ohio, USA.
Artemis 1 will qualify the spacecraft’s performance. Orion will make a flyby of the Moon, using lunar gravity to go into lunar orbit and propel itself 70 000 km beyond the Moon, almost half a million km from Earth – farther than any human has ever travelled.
On its return journey, Orion will do another flyby of the Moon before heading back to Earth.
The total trip will take around 20 days, ending with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean without the European Service Module – it separates and burns up harmlessly in the atmosphere.
Artemis 2 will follow a similar flight path with a crew of four astronauts, but with a direct return trajectory that includes a flyby of the Moon, without entering Lunar orbit.
The European Service Module is built by Airbus, with smaller components coming from suppliers all over Europe, making the mission a truly international endeavour.
Orion is the first collaboration between ESA and NASA on a spacecraft that will take humans farther into space.
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 is committed to working with partners globally to achieve its exciting vision of human and robotic exploration targeting the Moon and Mars.