The European Space Agency and NASA are collaborating on the first crewed mission of the Orion spacecraft, the agencies said Wednesday.
The Orion spacecraft, which will launch on the heavy-lift Space Launch System, will take humans into deep space. A mission is set for launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as early as 2021 and will include up to four astronauts. This mission will follow three progressively elongated orbits to reach past the moon and return to Earth.
The ESA will provide a second service module to support the mission. The module will provide propulsion, electrical power, water, and thermal control, as well as maintaining the oxygen and nitrogen atmosphere for the crew. The module is being designed and built by a team of companies from 11 countries led by Airbus Space & Defence, and it will be based on technology from ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle, which flew to the International Space Station five times with supplies.
“We are excited to be a part of this historic mission and appreciate NASA’s trust in us to help extend humanity’s exploration farther afield into our solar system,” said Dave Parker, the ESA’s director of human spaceflight.
The first service module will be launched with Orion in late 2018 on the SLS. This month-long mission will be unmanned and will orbit the moon before returning to Earth, testing the spacecraft and the rocket before bringing astronauts aboard.
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