Airbus Defence and Space has signed a new contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the construction of the second European service module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft. The contract is worth around €200m.
The ESM is a key element of Orion, which is designed to take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since the end of the Apollo programme.
The module provides propulsion, power and thermal control and will supply astronauts with water and oxygen on their missions beyond the Moon to more distant destinations such as Mars. The ESM is installed underneath the crew module. ESA selected Airbus DS as prime contractor for the development and construction of the first ESM in November 2014.
The integration of the first flight model began in May 2016, and the start of the integration of the second flight model has been planned for the middle of next year.
Following an initial test flight in December 2014, the second test flight of the Orion spacecraft – carried by NASA’s Space Launch System rocket – is known as Exploration Mission 1. This uncrewed mission, scheduled for November 2018, will travel more than 64,000km beyond the Moon in order to demonstrate the performance of the spacecraft. The first crewed mission – Exploration Mission 2 – is currently planned for 2021.
For the development and construction of the ESM, Airbus DS is drawing on its experience as prime contractor for ESA’s unmanned ATV, which was used to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.