Orion Frame Work

Image Credit: ESA

June 14, 2017 – The European Space Agency’s contribution to NASA’s Orion spacecraft is taking shape at Airbus in Bremen, Germany. This is no test article: the service module pictured here will fly into space by 2020, past the Moon and farther than any other human-rated spacecraft has ever flown before.

The blue circular frame is the support structure that holds the module as technicians work to get it ready. Yellow ties keep the 11 km of wiring in place as the thousands of components are installed and connected – the ties will be removed before flight. Behind the red support covers are the eight 490 N R-4D-11 thrusters, built by Aerojet.

Technicians are working in three shifts a day to assemble the components that are being shipped from all over Europe to complete this service module in just a few months’ time. In December it will be taken by road to Bremen airport and flown to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to meet its crew capsule.

The 13-ton service module will sit directly below Orion’s crew capsule and provides propulsion, power, temperature control, air and water for up to four astronauts on future flights into deep space. The solar array spans 19 m and provides enough to power two households.

An artist’s impression of the Orion spacecraft with ESA’s service module. Image Credit: NASA

The prime contractor for the Orion crew capsule is Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Littleton, Colorado. The crew module was recently moved to a work station inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center where it will undergo additional processing to prepare it for launch in 2019.

The crew module up-righting system, comprised of five up-righting bag assemblies, each with an inflation gas assembly, will be installed in the crew module’s forward bay. The up-righting bags are inflated after the crew module splashes down in the ocean and will turn the spacecraft upright if external forces cause it to roll over. The three main parachute assemblies also will be installed in the forward bay.

Orion’s crew module will be populated with avionics components, including control systems and communication and data units. Flight wire harnesses, which distribute power and data among the spacecraft’s systems, will be routed throughout the crew module’s forward bay, crew cabin and aft- and mid-bays.

The first flight of SLS and Orion, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), will send an uncrewed spacecraft beyond the moon, then return it to Earth where it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will demonstrate the integrated performance of the SLS rocket, Orion, the Orion Service Module, and ground support teams before a flight with crew in the early 2020s.