The Orion spacecraft is built by NASA with ESA providing the service module. The arrangement stems from the international partnership for the International Space Station.
The precursor to the Orion service module was Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle that supplied vital equipment and systems to the International Space Station. The Automated Transfer Vehicle programme was part of a barter arrangement between ESA and its international partners through which ESA pays its share of the running costs of the International Space Station.
The barter agreement was extended in January 2013 when ESA and NASA announced that Europe would provide one service module for Orion.
The knowledge gained by ESA and European industry from designing, building and operating the complex Automated Transfer Vehicle missions was instrumental for ESA’s participation in NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will fly astronauts to the Moon and beyond.
NASA’s decision to cooperate with ESA on a critical element for the mission is a strong sign of trust and confidence in ESA’s capabilities.
More than 20 companies around Europe are now building the European Service Module as NASA works on Orion and the Space Launch System.