After nine years of designing, building, and testing, Airbus’ European Service Module (ESM) has finished its Acceptance Review and was formally handed over to NASA on December 11. Now it is officially NASA’s property and they will be in charge of keeping it ready for when it will fly.
The ESM is the part that will be attached to the Orion spacecraft and will provide power, life support, and propulsion to the spacecraft as it flies around the Moon. This ESM, which will fly on Artemis I, had a group of 85 people that convened over teleconference to perform the review.
“this is a great achievement for the programme today, and I would like to underline the excellent ESA and Airbus teamwork that has led to this point. This is one step beyond to the Moon as well as a promise of more to come for the European Service Module in 2021!”
Didier Radola, Airbus head of the Orion’s European Service Module programme
The service module will be able to hold unpressurized cargo space for scientific experiments as well as all the engines for maintaining attitude control and providing the energy needing to return to the Moon. The main engine that is on the rear of the module is the AJ-10 from Aerojet Rocktdyne. This rocket engine has a long history with U.S. space programs, developed originally for the Able upper stand for Atlas and Thor rockets. This engine will be revising its role as the main propulsion unit for lunar spacecraft since it also served as the main engine on the Apollo Service Module.
The ESM will be used until it separates from the Orion spacecraft and is discarded to burn on re-entry. Currently Airbus is contracted to build modules up to Artemis V while NASA is also on the look for a possible commercial replacement for it.