The European Service Module-2 (ESM-2) is currently undergoing assembly at Airbus in Bremen, Germany. ESM-2 is the engine of the Orion spacecraft that will carry its first crew into space. The mission is called Artemis 2 and is targeted to launch in 2022.
Every wire seen in this structure must be correctly connected and configured to ensure the systems providing power, propulsion, oxygen and heat get the spacecraft and its crew of four safely around the Moon and back.
Orion will rely on three types of engines to get the spacecraft to its destination:
The main engine is a repurposed Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System engine that has flown in space before.
Eight auxiliary thrusters come in as backup to this main engine and to provide orbit corrections. These auxiliary thrusters have been recently installed and are partially visible in the above photo at the bottom of the Service Module.
Finally, 24 smaller engines grouped into six pods provide attitude control. In fixed positions, they can be fired individually as needed to move the spacecraft in different directions and rotate it into any position.
ESM-2 is expected to be completed and delivered to NASA in 2020.
The first European Service Module arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in October 2018. It has since been mated with the Crew Module Adapter and Crew Module. The trio are undergoing thermal and balance testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Facility in Ohio this summer.
The recent Launch Abort Test conducted by Lockheed Martin and NASA marked another major milestone for Orion’s first exploratory mission. The test successfully demonstrated that astronauts can be pulled to safety in the event of a launch anomaly.
Artemis 1 will qualify the spacecraft’s performance. Orion will make a flyby of the Moon, using lunar gravity to gain speed and propel itself 70,000 km beyond the Moon. On its return journey, Orion will do another flyby of the Moon before heading back to Earth. The European Service Module will then separate and burn on re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, and the Orion capsule will splash down in the Pacific Ocean, where it will be recovered. The total trip will take around 20 days.
Artemis 2 will follow a similar flight path with a crew of four astronauts.
The European Service Module is built by Airbus, with smaller components coming from suppliers all over Europe, making the mission a truly international endeavor. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Littleton, Colorado, USA, is the prime contractor for the Orion spacecraft.
Orion is the first collaboration between ESA and NASA on a spacecraft that will take humans farther into space.
In addition to returning humans to the moon, Orion will be instrumental to building the Gateway, a staging post to be located in lunar orbit that will allow humans to go deeper into space.