Spaceflight Insider

Orion’s European Service Module makes its debut at Kennedy Space Center

NASA's Exploration Mission 1 Orion spacecraft will utilize a Service Module provided by the European Space Agency Photo Credit: ESA / A. Conigli

NASA’s Exploration Mission 1 Orion spacecraft will utilize a Service Module provided by the European Space Agency
Photo Credit: ESA / A. Conigli

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. –On Friday, Nov. 16 NASA will mark the arrival of the European Service Module to Kennedy Space Center. The agency plans to honor this historic event at 9 a.m. EST (12:00 GMT) with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, European Space Agency (ESA) Director General Jan Wörner and other officials slated to make remarks. Both Bridenstine and Wörner expected to speak at the event.

The European Service Module (ESM) is the first major component of a NASA vehicle ever constructed outside of the U.S. The 34,085 lbs (15,461 kg) ESM is designed to provide air, water, thermal control and propulsion to the Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) crew that will fly on Orion. For comparison, the Apollo Service Module weighed in at about 54,057 lbs (24,520 kg).

The ESM is constructed from more than 20,000 parts that are precision fit into the 12 foot (4 meter) long unpressurized component. The main body of the service module is 6 feet (2 meters) high and contains the fuel tanks as well as oxygen, nitrogen and water for the crew.

Additionally, the ESM houses vital heat exchangers designed to moderate the climate inside the crew capsule. The remaining length consists of the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) Engine. The OMS is an AJ10-190 engine that was originally built for NASA’s Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System. This engine, which is housed inside the spacecraft adapter during launch, provides an estimated 5,778 pounds of thrust.

The Service module is derived from ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle which launched supplies to the International Space Station. A total of five ATVs were built and launched between March of 2008 and July of 2014. The knowledge gained from producing those vehicles helped influence the design of the ESM.

The ESM provides power to the Orion systems using 4 solar “wings.” Each wing consists of 3 panel blocks that are 6 feet (2 meters) square. These wings contain more than 15,000 solar cells that produce enough electricity to power a three bedroom house. When fully extended, the solar wings bring the ESM to a width of about 62 feet (19 meters). The ESM measures 13.5 feet (4.1 meters) across before the wings are unfurled.

Over 11 countries in the European Union are responsible for building the components used on the ESM. The list includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. 

Once the ESM has been inspected, it will be integrated with the Orion spacecraft and the rest of the Space Launch System in preparation for EM-1. The EM-1 flight is designed to send humans further into space than they have ever traveled before with the spacecraft soaring 37,000 miles (59,545 kilometers) above the surface of the Moon.




Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.

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