Orion service module engine shipped to Europe
NASA has shipped the Orion spacecraft’s main engine to Europe to be integrated with the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which serves as the backbone of Orion’s Service Module.
Been there, done that
The Orion main engine is a repurposed Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) thruster. The bipropellant (monomethylhydrazine/nitrogen tetroxide) engine produces up to 6,000 pounds (26.7 kilonewtons) of thrust and swivels in pitch and yaw directions. It will provide primary propulsion during lunar orbit insertion and trans-Earth injection for Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), the first Space Launch System (SLS)/Orion test flight, scheduled for 2018.
The specific engine sent to ESA has flown in space 19 times aboard Space Shuttles Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis. It underwent vibration testing at Johnson Space Center in June prior to shipping.
Extending transatlantic cooperation
Airbus Space & Defence is responsible for integrating the engine into the ATV-based service module, which provides propulsion, electrical power, water, and thermal control as well as the oxygen and nitrogen atmosphere for the crew.
NASA selected the ATV to provide power and consumables (oxygen, water) for Orion in 2013 as part of the agency’s effort to include Europe in U.S. space exploration efforts. ATV also has the advantage of being a proven design, as it flew to the International Space Station five times between 2008 and 2012 to provide supplies.
In addition to supplying the service module for EM-1, ESA announced Dec. 2 they would also provide one for Exploration Mission 2 (EM-2), scheduled for 2021. EM-2 will be the first crewed flight for the Orion spacecraft.
“We are excited to be a part of this historic mission and appreciate NASA’s trust in us to help extend humanity’s exploration farther afield into our Solar System,” said Dave Parker, ESA’s director of human spaceflight.
Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.