Testing the solar wings of the European service module that will provide power, water, air and electricity to NASA’s Orion Moon module.
The solar arrays Orion will use to produce electricity are tested at ESA’s technical heart in the Netherlands. Folded for launch, the fragile solar panels need to survive the rumbling into space aboard the most powerful rocket ever built, NASA’s Space Launch System.
Orion’s solar panels will be folded inside the rocket fairing on the first leg of the trip around the Moon. Once released from the rocket they will unfold and rotate towards the Sun to start delivering power.
To make sure the solar panels will work after the intense launch, ESA engineers are putting them through rigorous tests that exceed what they will experience on launch day. This includes vibrating them on a shaking table and placing them in front of enormous speakers that recreate the harsh launch conditions.
Orion will eventually fly beyond the Moon with astronauts, the first time a spacecraft will support humans with European hardware will also be the farthest humans ever travel from Earth. The first mission – without astronauts – is getting ready for launch in 2019.