Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second space company, has signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the development and construction of the service module for Orion, the future American human space capsule.
The contract is worth around 390 million euros. The service module will provide propulsion, power supply, thermal control and the central elements of the life support system of the American capsule.
The contract was signed today in Berlin (Germany), in the presence of Brigitte Zypries, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy.
It is the first time that Europe has been involved in providing system-critical elements for an American space project. In December 2012, US space agency NASA and ESA had agreed to certify the new US Orion spacecraft in conjunction with the European service module. This module is based on the design of and the experience gained from the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) developed and constructed by Airbus Defence and Space on behalf of ESA as a supply craft for the International Space Station.
“This follow-on contract is a mark of confidence in our expertise as well as in our ability to deliver reliable state-of-the-art space systems on time and within budget. Thanks to this programme and the continuous investments we make, we are able to maintain our technological lead,” said François Auque, Head of Space Systems. “In the wake of the ATV’s outstanding five flawless missions to the ISS, thisprogramme is yet another example of the important role that Europe plays globally in the field of human space flight.”
Once the system designs for the service module had been approved by the ESA in May 2014, the detailed definition phase began, parallel to the construction of the first hardware. This is set to be completed in November 2015, when ESA approves the detailed design. The qualification and production phases will then begin.
The intention is to use the Orion space capsule for human missions to the Moon, to asteroids and into the depths of space. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is developing and constructing the space capsule for four or more astronauts on behalf of NASA.
Planned for 2017/2018, the first Orion mission in which Europe is involved, “Exploration Mission 1”, consists of an unmanned flight to theLagrangian points of the Moon and a return to Earth. The aim of this mission is not only to demonstrate the spacecraft’s performance capabilities before its human deployment, but also to achieve qualification for NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket. As part of “Exploration Mission 2”, Orion is then scheduled to be launched into space not earlier than 2020 with astronauts on board.