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NASA’s Orion Spacecraft With Airbus Built ESM Ready for Launch on August 29, 2022

On August 29th, NASA’s Orion spacecraft will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on its unmanned mission to the moon. The Airbus-built European Service Module (ESM) will power Orion to and from its lunar orbit as part of NASA’s Artemis missions.

Artemis I Stack Rolls Out to the Launch Pad - ©NASA/Radislav Sinyak

On Tuesday (August 23, 2022), Airbus announced that NASA’s Orion spacecraft will be launched on August 29th from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (U.S.) with the Airbus-built European Service Module (ESM) as part of NASA’s Artemis missions. The ESM will power Orion to and from its lunar orbit. Airbus developed the ESM as a prime contractor for the European Space Agency (ESA) and is designing and manufacturing five additional ESMs for future missions. Orion is the next-generation spacecraft that will carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since the end of the Apollo program in the 1970s. The ESM is a key element of Orion, providing propulsion, power and thermal regulation that will supply astronauts with water and oxygen on future missions. The service module is installed below the crew module, and combined they make up the Orion spacecraft.

In Tuesday’s announcment, Airbus’ Head of Space Systems, Jean-Marc Nasr, said,

“The launch of NASA's Orion spacecraft with the European Service Module has historic significance 50 years after the last astronaut lunar mission and is another major step toward returning astronauts to the Moon. The programme is now moving forward and we are ready for a return to the lunar surface in 2025 together with our customers ESA and NASA and our industrial partner Lockheed Martin Space.”

Artemis I Orion at NASA - Copyright- ©NASA/Radislav Sinyak

The unmanned Artemis I mission is scheduled to launch on August 29, 2022 for a duration of 42 days, 3 hours and 20 minutes. Orion and the Space Launce System (SLS) rocket will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39B for the first time since NASA’s modernization of the facility. The Orion spacecraft will travel a total distance of 1.3 million miles and will re-enter the atmosphere at 24,500 mph (Mach 32) before splashdown on October 10, 2022. Artemis I is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions with the goal of building a long-term human presence on the Moon. The primary goal of the Artemis I mission is to demonstrate Orion’s systems in a spaceflight environment to ensure a safe re-entry, descent, splashdown and recovery before the first manned flight, Artemis II, with a crew of four astronauts. For Artemis II, which is scheduled for around 2024, Orion will be powered by Airbus’ ESM-2.

In 2025, Airbus’ ESM-3 will ensure that another Orion capsule safely carries the first woman to the Moon, with the technologies developed and experience collected during the Artemis missions fundamental for future long-term missions to Mars, for example. For the first Moon landing, Orion will dock with the International Lunar Gateway, a lunar-orbiting platform that will enable future sustained space exploration.

The Airbus-Built European Service Module (ESM) Powers the Return to the Moon - Courtesy Airbus

Orion ESM Integration in Cleanroom in Bremen - ©Airbus

The Airbus ESM is built of over 20,000 parts and components including electrical equipment, thrusters, solar arrays, propellant tanks, life support materials and several kilometers of cables and hoses. The ESM is a four meter high and wide cylinder that is similar to the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV 2008-2015) and features a signature four-bladed solar array (19 meters when deployed), which generates enough power for two households. The module’s 8.6 tons of propellant power the main engine, while eight auxiliary engines and 24 smaller thrusters ensure navigation and attitude control. At launch, the ESM weighs just over 13 tons.

Source(s): Airbus, NASA


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