Lockheed Martin Is Seeking To Americanize Orion’s European Service Module

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Lockheed Martin Space Systems is working to get American parts onto the European service module slated to power the first crewed flight of the Orion deep-space capsule the Denver-based company is building for NASA. 

The European Space Agency is providing the service module for that flight, notionally slated for 2021, and for an uncrewed 2017 precursor. Both missions will send Orion to the same distant lunar retrograde orbit. 

These service modules will be derived from the Automated Transfer Vehicle ESA used to carry cargo to the international space station. ESA agreed to provide Orion service modules in 2013, displacing a domestic option from Lockheed. 

Now, for financial reasons, ESA prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space may provide only “one and a half” service modules, Larry Price, Lockheed’s Orion deputy program manager, said in an interview here.

“They may not complete both of them, depending on funding,” Price said. But “we think we can drive Europe’s cost down so they can deliver two complete service modules” by steering the European company toward American suppliers already working on the Orion crew module. “If we use common parts, they can be lower price,” Price said. He added that ESA is set to deliver a full service module for the 2017 flight.

Spokespersons for Airbus, ESA and NASA could not be reached by deadline May 20.

Because of U.S. export control regulations, and the fact that Lockheed has no contractual authority over the European service module, the company has had to tread “very carefully” in its interactions with Airbus, which are nevertheless ongoing, Price said.

Orion will be equipped with a Lockheed-provided service module for an unmanned test flight slated to launch Dec. 4 from Florida atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket.

The 2017 and 2021 Orion missions will be launched by NASA’s Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket. 

Structural elements of the Orion capsule for the 2017 mission already have been fabricated at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility outside New Orleans. NASA, as part of internal 2016 budget deliberations, assumes an Orion mission will launch about every two years, according to Price.

 

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