The launch of Artemis 1 increases ESA’s research ambitions

WASHINGTON — The successful launch of the Artemis 1 mission came just in time for the European Space Agency, which is seeking support from its member states for new research initiatives.

ESA has delivered a service module to the Orion spacecraft that provides power, propulsion and other services. This service module has been performing well since launch on the eve of a critical maneuver, the Outbound Powered Flyby, performed by the service module’s main engine, scheduled to begin on November 21.

“The propulsion system will be one of the subsystems that we will be watching closely,” said Philippe Deloux, program manager for the European Service Module at ESA, during a pre-launch interview at the Kennedy Space Center. The concern, he said, is the valves not working quite as intended, but he said engineers have developed a workaround that should allow the propulsion system to work as it should.

The European Service Module (ESM) on Artemis 1 is the first of six ESA has currently agreed to provide, with Airbus Defense and Space acting as prime contractor. The ESM-2 was delivered to KSC last year, while the ESM-3 and -4 are being built at Airbus’ facility in Bremen, Germany.

“Efficiencies are much better” for the later service modules, Dellou said, with a series of improvements in each module produced. “The team has settled into a routine where they are processing things much faster, but there are still a number of things that need to be addressed and improved.”

There will be more changes to the ESM with ESM-4, which will be used on the Artemis 4 mission. This is the first launch of the Space Launch System Block 1B rocket, whose additional performance will allow Orion to deliver paired payloads such as lunar gateway modules. Those modifications include changing the angle of the reaction control system engines to accommodate the extra mass when Orion docks with these co-manifested payloads, while avoiding the engine plumes hitting the service module’s solar arrays, Dellou said.

He said ESA’s goal is to begin routine production of service modules starting with ESM-4, with the goal of producing one service module per year to match the cadence of subsequent Artemis missions. “We’re not quite there yet, but eventually that’s the goal we’ll get to from ESM-4 and beyond.”

At the ESA Council of Ministers meeting in Paris on November 22-23, the agency will seek approval from its member states for three more service modules, from ESM-7 to -9. “My goal is to contract with industry next year” for those three service modules, he said.

The successful launch of Artemis 1 is a good time for a ministerial meeting where ESA will request funding for other research initiatives such as a lunar cargo lander and a lunar communication and navigation network.

“That would be a great signal that yes, we’re on our way and we have a viable program,” Dellou said. “This is what the ministers want to see.”

On November 15, ESA published the results of a survey of residents of ESA member countries conducted by Harris Interactive. The survey found that climate change, space exploration and science, and space debris were Europeans’ top priorities for the space agency.

“I was very pleased by what I saw,” said Josef Aschbacher, ESA director general, in an interactive briefing on the survey results, noting that they are in line with the agency’s priorities, which will be discussed at the ministerial meeting. “I am very confident that what we are hearing from the public is fully in line with our comprehensive ESA strategy as well as the Ministerial Conference.”

This includes research and space science, which was second only to climate change in the survey. “I’m very happy to see that,” he said, “because there’s a strong package for the ministry.” The launch of Artemis 1 increases ESA’s research ambitions

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