Just over two years ago, on 14 October 2021, the second European Service Module (ESM-2) arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Technicians have been busy preparing the spacecraft for Artemis II, which will bring its four-person crew around the Moon and back.
Testing the limits
ESM-2 was first connected to the Crew Module Adapter to form the complete Orion service module. From then, the service module endured a variety of tests to ensure all equipment functions correctly, communicates with each other, and will withstand the intense conditions of the launch. Two important tests include the Thermal Cycle Test which assessed how well the spacecraft will withstand the extremes of temperature, and the Direct Field Acoustic Test (DFAT), which assessed how well the spacecraft will withstand the vibrations of its launch to the Moon.
Connecting the pieces
Now, the crew and service modules have been connected to form the Orion vehicle for Artemis II. Mechanically, these two main sections are connected at six points around the crew capsule’s heat shield. Data and power connections and pipes for fluids between the sections are routed to go around the heat shield instead of crossing it.
Marco Arcioni, assembly integration and testing team leader for the European Service Module at ESA, states: “Now that the Crew and Service Modules are joined as one, we can power up the Orion vehicle and check whether all parts work together correctly. Understandably, this is a crucial step in the process; it allows the European and US teams to validate that all systems communicate with each other.”
Next year will be a busy time for the Orion teams. The installation of the solar wings will complete the spacecraft, after which it will be transferred to NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems team, where the tanks will be filled with propellant. From there, Orion will be connected to the launch abort system, and then with the mega Moon rocket, SLS, in preparation for the Artemis II launch.
The European Service Module is part of the ESA Terrae Novae exploration programme leading Europe’s human journey into the Solar system.