Science

ESA to provide service module for NASA's Orion spacecraft

ESA to provide service module ...
Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft with service module (Image: ESA-D. Ducros)
Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft with service module (Image: ESA-D. Ducros)
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The Automated Transfer Vehicle Edoardo Amaldi leaving the ISS (Image: NASA)
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The Automated Transfer Vehicle Edoardo Amaldi leaving the ISS (Image: NASA)
Cutaway of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (Image: ESA)
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Cutaway of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (Image: ESA)
Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft with service module (Image: NASA)
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Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft with service module (Image: NASA)
Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft with service module (Image: ESA-D. Ducros)
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Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft with service module (Image: ESA-D. Ducros)
Apollo 15 showing the Command Service Modules (Image: NASA)
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Apollo 15 showing the Command Service Modules (Image: NASA)
Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft during the 2014 test flight (Image: NASA)
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Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft during the 2014 test flight (Image: NASA)
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NASA has signed an agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the latter to supply service modules for NASA’s Orion manned spacecraft, due to launch in 2017. The modules will use technology from ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) currently ferrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) and will provide propulsion, power and life support to the Orion module.

Orion, originally designed as NASA’s replacement for the Space Shuttle, is intended for cislunar (between Earth and the Moon) and other missions in deep space, as commercial carriers take over freight and passenger duty for the ISS. The Orion capsule is an enlarged and advanced version of the Apollo Command Module and, like the Command Module, it needs a service module in order to function for more than a limited time. On its own, the Orion can only sustain itself during the period of reentry in Earth’s atmosphere at the end of a mission.

Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft with service module (Image: NASA)
Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft with service module (Image: NASA)

The ESA service module will be based on the solar-powered ATV, which has already clocked up three unmanned cargo missions to the ISS since 2008. It also acts as a booster for changing the station’s orbit, and as a handy means of rubbish disposal when it burns up in the atmosphere.

Though unmanned, the ATV is already man-rated because ESA had planned to build a version to carry astronauts. Man-rated means that the operational parameters of the ATV are set so that a crew could ride in it safely. Scheduled for a total of five ISS visits before the program ends, the idea of using it as a service module for Orion has been under consideration since 2011.

Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft during the 2014 test flight (Image: NASA)
Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft during the 2014 test flight (Image: NASA)

The first test flight for Orion will occur in 2014 when it will be launched atop a Delta IV rocket and sent 3,600 miles (5,800 km) into space before reentering the atmosphere at 20,000 mph (32,000 km/h). The first mission for Orion is scheduled for 2017 when it will be sent unmanned by NASA’s Space Launch System on a circumlunar mission similar to that of Apollo 8 in 1968.

When it returns, it will hit the earth’s atmosphere at 11 km/s (24,600 mph, 39,600 km/h) – the fastest reentry ever. This is important, because Orion is intended for cislunar and more distant missions that will require much faster reentry speeds than returning low Earth orbit missions. A second mission to orbit the Moon, which will carry a crew, is also planned for 2021, but permission for this has yet to be granted.

Astrium of Bremen, Germany is expected to build the modules and they will be paid for in barter as NASA accepts the modules to offset the costs of ESA using the ISS.

The video below is a NASA animation of Orion’s first mission, released as part of the announcement of the ESA agreement.

Source: ESA

NASA, ESA Agree on New Orion Service Module

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5 comments
TJ Leadens
Seriously NASA? You have the same timeline to go back to the moon that CHINA has to go to MARS! 2021 is a long time to wait to achieve something we have already done before.... 60 years ago..... with the computer power of a dollar store calculator. sheesh.
tampa florida
Re: apollo moon landing The greatest accomplishment in human history has not been duplicated in the last 40 years. Columbus discovered America-- and others immediately followed. Lewis & Clark opened the N.W. Passage-- and others immediately followed. Orville & Wilbur took to the skies-- and others immediately followed. hhmmmm
SteveZ
Gee, you'd have thought NASA scientists would have known there isn't any sound in space.
Gary Richardson
Safety First!
Franco428
Are the folks at NASA really expecting four people to live in the Orion Spacecraft all the way to Mars and then expect them to get out and walk around??? Without artificial gravity along the way to prevent all manner of physical problems, NASA is wasting our money and the lives of our Astronauts! Or, is our Government trying to find a way to fail so completely, that they can stop spending money on Space Research? A large spinning habitat can be used for several missions. We can build it in space because that's what the Space Station was to perfect - Space construction techniques! Human Engineering should be the foremost thought on NASA's mind. A Mars Lander would be extra leg room but still NO GRAVITY!! NASA needs to watch both the "2001" and "2010" movies over and over until it sinks in that we will never get beyond our Moon with Artificial Gravity.
I believe our government really wants to give up on Space and concentrate on winning re-elections by spending our Tax Dollars on buying votes with handouts!!! What a shame that the American people are being lied to. The Space Shuttle was the best thing going for low orbit missions. Now we rent rides to Space for $30,000,000 a seat! Our Government has no fiscal sense anymore. This next election we need to kick every one of them out of office and demand no more special interests being pandered to. Our Space Program employed hundred of thousands of Americans until Congress saw a better use of "OUR" Tax Dollars - Buying Votes.....