Airbus Defence and Space plays a significant role in the major successes associated with European orbital systems; customers and partners worldwide rely on our experience and innovative spirit. Today, Airbus Defence and Space works on a number of exciting Space projects, including Orion ESM and the ISS' Columbus module. A global competence centre for all human spaceflight-related activities, our additional competences include astronaut training, life support systems for Earth and Space, Space robotics, Space exploration programmes and, last but not least, sounding rockets for microgravity experiments.
Orion'S EUROPEAN SERVICE MODULE
Orion, the next-generation US Spacecraft designed for manned space exploration missions will be powered by a European Service Module (ESM), developed and built by Airbus Defence and Space based on the design and experience of the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle), the supply craft for the International Space Station (ISS).
Orion will transport humans to interplanetary destinations beyond low Earth orbit (asteroids, the Moon, Mars) and return them safely back to Earth. The ESM will be the driving force that will power the Orion capsule and its crew of at least four astronauts deeper into space than ever before. Its main functions include a propulsion system, consumables storage (water and air), electrical power supply and thermal control. A first uncrewed Orion mission is planned for 2018.
Under an agreement between NASA and ESA, ratified in December 2012, Airbus Defence and Space, the prime contractor for the ESM, works under an ESA contract in close cooperation with Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems division.
This is the first time that NASA has permitted a European module to power a craft crewed by US astronauts, and as such is a testimony to the outstanding technologies and engineering expertise demonstrated by the ATV under Airbus Defence and Space’s prime contract.
Airbus Defence and Space delivered Columbus to NASA on schedule in May 2006. Successful launch and docking to the ISS took place in February 2008. During the programme Airbus Defence and Space successfully managed 41 subcontractors from 14 countries, bringing together an exceptional combination of state-of-the art space engineering expertise.
Columbus is a pressurised laboratory, 6.7 m long and 4.5 m in diameter, with its own, independent life support system. Astronaut-researchers on board the ISS are currently carrying out a number of experiments, covering material science, medicinei, pharmaceuticals, human physiology, biology, Earth observation, fluid physics and astronomy.
AUTOMATED TRANSFER VEHICLE (ATV)
Once docked, an ATV used its own engines to correct the station’s orbit, compensating for a regular loss of altitude due to drag and contributing to collision and debris avoidance. At the end of a mission, the ATV was filled with waste, de-docked and burned up as it headed back into the Earth's atmosphere. The ground-breaking innovations and learnings obtained during the ATV development and missions now serve as a fundamental basis for the development of the Orion ESM.