The Orion spaceship, NASA's next-generation vehicle developed to ferry astronauts to the moon and beyond, just hit a key milestone.
According to Reuters, the Orion will soon be fitted with its first service module — a European "powerhouse" which has just been delivered earlier today by NASA's transatlantic partners.
Dubbed the European Service Module (ESM), this crucial component was built by Airbus and will serve to "power and propel the Orion spacecraft on its first mission around the moon," the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Tuesday.
The hardware was officially handed over to U.S. officials at Bremen airport in Germany on Friday, notes the BBC. Here, the ESM will be loaded inside an Antonov An-124 aircraft and will fly to Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 5. The service module is expected to arrive in the U.S. on the following day.
"Designed and manufactured in Italy and Germany, the powerful workhorse is Europe's contribution to humanity's return to the moon," stated ESA officials.
The module essentially makes up the back end of the Orion spacecraft and includes a main engine and 32 smaller thrusters that will enable the capsule to orient itself in space. At the same time, the ESM is equipped with large tanks to hold fuel, water, and oxygen for the astronauts.
In addition, the European "powerhouse" will also provide thermal control for the Orion, so that the crew can ride at a comfortable temperature during their upcoming missions to the moon and to Mars.