Spacewatch: Airbus to build three more moon mission modules

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The European Space Agency has contracted Airbus Defence and Space to build three more European service modules (ESM) to be used as part of the Artemis moon landing programme. The new contract adds to the three ESMs already in production. All three of the new modules will propel astronauts to the moon.

The ESM provides power, propulsion and life support to Nasa’s Orion crew capsule. Each ESM is 4 metres in diameter and height. Its four solar arrays span 19 metres when unfurled and can generate enough energy to power two households. The ESM’s 8.6 tonnes of fuel powers its main engine and 32 smaller thrusters.

The first ESM is at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida being prepared for the uncrewed Artemis I test flight scheduled later this year. The second ESM will fly astronauts around the moon and back. The third ESM will carry the astronauts who will descend to the surface, sometime after 2024.

The ESMs announced this week will be used on Artemis missions IV to VI. These are expected to carry the first European astronauts to the moon, probably not to the surface but to the lunar gateway space station.

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