Orion Spaceship Driving Module 'Made in Germany'
Progress on the path towards advanced manned spaceflight: The US and Europe signed off another step to build and launch the Orion spaceship together, which will be able to carry astronauts to the moon and even to Mars. It is high time too since the schedule is tight, NASA plans to launch the Orion capsule in 2017, powered by a service module based on Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle technology, for a test flight around the moon. The first crewed flight to the moon is scheduled for 2021.
Thomas Reiter, ESA director of Human Spaceflight and Operations said: "NASA's decision to cooperate with ESA on their exploration programme with ESA delivering a critical element for the mission is a strong sign of trust and confidence in ESA's capabilities, for ESA it is an important contribution to human exploration."
The proposed service module will be closely based on the existing ATV's design and attached to Orion's crew capsule, which can carry 4 astronauts to space and back. It will contain the in-space propulsion capability for orbital transfer, attitude control and high-altitude ascent aborts. It also will generate and store power and provide thermal control, water and air for the astronauts. A third part of the combined Orion spaceship is a launch abort mechanism to evacuate the crew capsule in the unlikely case of a problem with the launch system.
The driving part of the Orion spaceship will be essentially "made in Germany", like the four ATV space freighters, since the world's third largest space-industry company Astrium, headquartered at a sprawling high-tech factory in Bremen, Germany, will be tasked with the development and production of the service module by ESA.
The international cooperation is a hopeful sign for space exploration, especially in times of ever tighter budgets, an approach that already made mammoth projects like the International Space Station possible.
"We have a lot to look forward to in the coming years with human exploration," Dan Dumbacher, deputy associate administrator for Exploration System Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington said. "NASA is thrilled to have ESA as a partner as we set out to explore our solar system."
The ATV is a versatile spacecraft, and a testament to European space technology prowess, which is performing many functions during it's until today 3 successful missions to the International Space Station. The ATV is the largest and only space freighter that can dock with the ISS completely by itself, is able to reboost the Station to a higher orbit and can even push the orbital complex out of the way of space debris. While docked, ATV can also be used as a habitable extra module for the astronauts. The fourth freighter, ATV-4 "Albert Einstein", is already in Kourou, French Guiana, to be launched to the ISS.
"ATV has proven itself on three flawless missions to the Space Station and this agreement is further confirmation that Europe is building advanced, dependable spacecraft," said Nico Dettmann, Head of ATV's production programme.