The second European Service Module, a key component of the Orion space capsule, is currently on its way to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. This will be the last stop for the module on Earth before it takes the first astronauts back to the Moon.
Built and assembled by Airbus at its site in Bremen, Germany, the second European Service Module (ESM-2) is an essential element of Orion, the next-generation spacecraft that will carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since the Apollo program ended in the 1970s.
The module will play a significant role in future lunar missions. It will provide propulsion, power, and thermal control and will supply astronauts with water and oxygen. The ESM-2 completed a thorough validation process prior to getting ready for shipment to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The module comprises more than 20,000 parts and components. Out of them, one element will return to American soil after undergoing testing in Germany: the service module’s main engine, which is a refurbished engine from NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis.
Now, the module, together with all of its components, is ready to arrive at its final earthbound stop. The ESM-2 is traveling onboard an Antonov AN-124 cargo aircraft, and it’s currently on its way to the U.S. Upon arrival at the space center, the ESM-2 will be attached to the crew module to form the Orion spacecraft. Once mated, the module will undergo further extensive testing before it gets integrated with the launcher. The whole process is expected to take around two years.
This week, the Kennedy Space Center is buzzing with lunar activity. Three Orion spacecraft will be there at the same time, each at different levels of assembly and integration. The first Orion spacecraft will be placed on top of the Space Launch System rocket in preparation for the uncrewed Artemis I mission. The ESM will take Orion more than 64,000 kilometers (39,768 miles) beyond the Moon in a test flight to demonstrate its capabilities.