November 16, 2022 | News
The Orion spacecraft has just begun its journey to the Moon on NASA’s Artemis I mission, built by Surrey Research Park company, Airbus.
The Artemis I mission will test the full Orion spacecraft in space for the first time. This mission is uncrewed, and all systems will be pushed to their limits – vital for ensuring that crew members in future missions aboard the Orion capsule are safe.
The ESM was built by Airbus under contract to the European Space Agency (ESA). It serves as the Orion spacecraft’s main propulsion system, while also providing orbital manoeuvring and positioning control. Another important function of the ESM is providing the spacecraft’s crew with critical elements of life support – including water and oxygen – and it regulates thermal conditions aboard Orion.
The outbound trip to the Moon will take several days. Orion will fly about 62 miles (100 km) above the surface of the Moon, and then use the Moon’s gravitational force to propel Orion about 70,000 km beyond the Moon in lunar orbit. The spacecraft will stay in that orbit for approximately six days to collect data and allow mission controllers – including Airbus engineers who designed and built the ESM – to assess the performance of the spacecraft.
After this 26-day-long mission and a total distance travelled of more than 2 million km, the capsule will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. The ESM will not return to Earth with Orion, but will burn up in a controlled manner in the Earth’s atmosphere – having completed its vital role in preparing the way for the future exploration of space.
Before its return to Earth, Orion will perform another close flyby above the Moon’s surface to harness the Moon’s gravity to accelerate back towards Earth.