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The plan is for an Orion spacecraft to fly around the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis programme to return humans to the lunar surface. And the tests passed included the extreme temperatures and electro-magnetic interference it would encounter during a trip to the Moon.

The vehicle can transport up to four astronauts and it’s made up of a European Service Module, the Crew Module and connecting adapter. All the elements have now been given the stamp of approval for spaceflight apparently.

The European Space Agency has highlighted its progress because it is designing and supplying the European Service Module, which is the bottom part of the spacecraft in the picture. This provides electricity, water, oxygen and nitrogen and keeps the spacecraft on course at the right temperature.


Orion arrived at Plum Brook Station – the only centre large enough to test the spacecraft – on 26 November and passed two months of thermal-vacuum tests subjecting the spacecraft to temperatures ranging from –175°C to 75°C in vacuum.

After passing the trial by temperature, Orion went through electromagnetic interference testing to ensure the electronics worked well together – the European Service Module has over 11 km over wiring to gather information and send commands to its 31 engines, propellant tanks, solar wings and more.

What comes next? Following the tests, Orion will now ship to the NASA Kennedy Space Center, where it will be further prepared for launch. These preparations will include assembling the solar panels and then undergoing more individual tests.

Image: NASA–Marvin Smith

[Via European Space Agency]

See also: ESA wins funding boost for space R&D

See also: ESA delays ExoMars rover mission to 2022

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