Orion’s European Service Module Takes Shape

Image Credit: Airbus DS

Image Credit: Airbus DS

August 24, 2016 – The European Service Module (ESM) that will power NASA’s Orion spacecraft is taking shape at Airbus Defence and Space in Bremen, Germany. The ESM sits directly below Orion’s crew capsule and provides propulsion, electricity, water, air, and thermal control for up to four astronauts.

The primary structure, pictured above, provides rigidity to the European Service Module similar to the chassis of a car. It absorbs the vibrations and energy from launch while a secondary structure protects the module from micrometeoroids and space debris.

Assembly of the thousands of components needed to build the advanced spacecraft started on May 19 with the arrival of the primary structure that was shipped from Turin, Italy, by Thales Alenia Space.

In 2018 this structure will be an element of the European Service Module that will be launched into space as part of the Orion spacecraft on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). During that uncrewed mission, Orion will be integrated with the European Service Module and launched atop the Space Launch System (SLS) for the first time. Orion and the EMS will fly beyond the Moon and back.

More than 20 companies around Europe are working on the project, most building on their expertise earned from the five Automated Transfer Vehicles that delivered cargo to the Space Station and reboosted its orbit from 2009 to 2015.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Littleton, Colorado is the prime contractor for the Orion spacecraft. Orion is the world’s only human-rated deep space vehicle.