The US and Europe are taking a next step towards the moon

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The European service module, viewed from below. Image via ESA / A. Conigli.

NASA & s Spacecraft Orion – built to transport people – is one step closer to its first mission to fly around the moon and back, said the European Space Agency (ESA) on October 30, 2018. It said its European service module – which will be used to propel and propel the Orion spacecraft – will be shipped this week from Bremen, Germany to the United States with an Antonov An-124 aircraft. It departs in the early hours of November 5 and arrives on November 6 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The ESM, designed in Italy and Germany, is a crucial European component of NASA's ambitious Space Launch System or SLS; the Orion spacecraft section of SLS is designed to bring astronauts back to the moon for the first time since the 1970s.

The European service module holds fuel in large tanks, as well as water, oxygen and nitrogen for the astronauts, while radiators and heat exchangers help keep the module at pleasant temperatures.

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The module is similar to ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle, which was used to supply the International Space Station. The structure forms the backbone of the entire vehicle, something like a car chassis. Three types of engines will help Orion during its excursions and the spacecraft can turn in all directions. The module is being built by Airbus Defense and Space and many other companies throughout Europe also supply components.

The European service module is an integral part of the Orion spacecraft shown here. Orion was designed to bring astronauts back to the moon for the first time since the Apollo missions of the seventies. Image via NASA.

This is the first time that a European built system will serve as a critical element to power an American spacecraft; This is largely due to the existing Automated Transfer Vehicle program from ESA, mentioned above.

So what happens next?

At Kennedy Space Center, the European service module is connected to the Orion crew module and the corresponding adapter in preparation for Exploration Mission-1. This mission is planned as a first test flight without astronauts who will travel further into space than any human spaceship has ever dared to do. This mission is expected to start sometime in 2020.

A second European service module, similar to the first one, is now being developed. He will be able to take a human crew on a trip around the moon. All these activities lead to launches with components of the Gateway – a planned man-made outpost in orbit around the moon, designed to be used for both human and robotic exploration of the moon.

Orion is similar in design to ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle, with which the International Space Station is supplied. Image via ESA / NASA.

ESM also recently completed the latest integration and testing in the Airbus integration hall in Bremen.

Orion is the manned capsule component of NASA's Space Launch System, which after completion is the most powerful rocket ever built. It will bring astronauts back to the moon, and more advanced versions of SLS will bring astronauts deeper into space, including Mars. As described on the mission website:

After the first flight, the next step is to send people on brave missions to the moon and beyond. As SLS evolves over future missions to unprecedented accommodation of mass and volume of cargo and unrivaled performance, the missile will allow NASA to send missions to deep space and reach remote destinations faster than ever before. On her second mission with Orion and astronauts, Exploration Mission-2, SLS will steer Orion and its crew beyond people who have traveled more than 250,000 miles of Earth, 10,000 miles beyond the moon.

SLS and Orion are America & # 39; s space vehicles and the basis for missions that take explorers to distant space. This new era of discovery requires that all of humanity, including international and commercial partners, help make these businesses possible and sustainable. Partners can help to routinely deliver supplies and equipment needed to live and work on the moon and in space. SLS and Orion are planning to fly once or twice a year and will focus on reliable, safe flights for people and large freight.

Once operational, SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built, and will bring a manned Orion to the moon and beyond. Image via NASA.

In short: the delivery of the European service module is a new step towards the first launch of the Space Station Orion from NASA – part of the Space Launch System – designed to bring astronauts back to the moon for the first time in a few decades. bring. Human missions back to the moon are still a number of ways, but the first launch of Orion will be an important step closer.


Paul Scott Anderson