A woman will be part of the crew for the first time.
Lhen American astronauts set foot on the Moon in 2024, Europe and Belgium can be proud of their contribution to the feat. The European Space Agency (ESA) has commissioned Airbus to build the European service module for a total amount of 250 million euros.
For the first time since the Apollo-17 program in 1972, the United States plans to send astronauts to the Moon in 2024. A woman will also be part of the crew for the first time. Astronauts are trained for their mission and their spacecraft is under development.
Called Orion, the spacecraft consists of two parts. The crew members will be forward, in an American module. The European service module, which will contain the engines, oxygen and water, will be at the back. Electricity on board will be produced by four solar panels produced in Leiden, the Netherlands. The European side will also be responsible for regulating the temperature on board. The European service module has a diameter and a height of four meters. It will carry 8.6 tonnes of fuel to power Orion’s main engine and 32 small propellants that will keep the spacecraft on course during the round trip. If the service module will cover almost the entire trip, it will be released before returning to Earth and burn in the atmosphere.
A first flight without crew
According to ESA, each service module weighs around fifteen tonnes, has nearly 20,000 parts and approximately 12 kilometers of cable. To this module is added the inhabited part, weighing more than ten tonnes. The structure measures almost seven meters high and five meters wide.
Development and construction, in which Belgium is also participating (ground test infrastructure, tank separation wall and pressure control elements), have benefited from the experience acquired during the construction of the European spacecraft ATV. The latter regularly visited the International Space Station to supply it with test equipment, spare parts, food, air, water and fuel.
Scheduled for the end of next year, the first flight of the US space program, dubbed Artemis, will be an unmanned round trip to the Moon, to test the systems. Orion’s first crewed flight is scheduled for 2022 or 2023. The spacecraft will then have to circle the Moon before returning to Earth. The first moon landing will not take place until the third flight. The deal was announced on Tuesday.