Alenia Space, a 75 million contract to build the Orion – La Stampa space capsule


TORINO. The new NASA spaceship will also be made in Turin. Artemis will be part of the third mission, the one that will bring the astronauts back to the moon. It is called Orion, from the name of the famous constellation, and will be the protagonist of NASA’s Artemis lunar program, in collaboration with Europe, and therefore with the European Space Agency. Artemis, not surprisingly, in mythology is closely connected to Apollo, the name of the first, great space program that brought men to the moon between 1969 and 1972. And this time, with the great return, after more than fifty ‘ years, with the first crew, which will bring astronauts to the moon in 2024, there will also be a woman. And in subsequent missions, there will also be European astronauts; both because the Cislunar space station, which will be placed in a selenic orbit by 2024, will also be made up of European components, and because the service module of the Orion spacecraft, the new Apollo by Artemis, will be built by ESA, and in a large part built and integrated in Turin, at the Thales Alenia Space plants, located in Corso Marche. The agreements were already there, but yesterday the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%) signed a contract with Airbus Defense and Space, the program’s first industrial contractor, which further materializes the start of construction of the section of the spacecraft that will contain all the vital systems to make it operational during the missions. The first of these missions is scheduled for the fall of 2021, and the Orion will be launched on top of NASA’s new and powerful SLS rocket, the Saturn’s successor to the epic lunar Apollo achievements. And it will be a new technological challenge for the Italian industry in the sector, and in particular for the Turin infrastructure. In Corso Marche the thermo-mechanical systems for the third model of the European Service Model (ESM) on the Orion spacecraft will be developed and produced. The service module for Orion will be developed under the ESA contract and will provide structure, propulsion, power, thermal control and main life support capabilities for the American spacecraft.

The contract
The ESM 3 contract, signed yesterday by Thales Alenia Space, has a value of approximately 75 million euros. Thales Alenia Space will develop and supply key systems for the third flight unit, including structural and micro-meteoric protection, thermal control and storage and distribution of consumables. “This contract confirms the high level we have gained in the construction of infrastructures in the field of space exploration and transport – says Massimo Comparini, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in Italy – It also reflects the long experience of our company in the field of flights human space. The future of space exploration depends on the robustness of technologies, the safety and comfort of astronauts, Thales Alenia Space solutions are a perfect synergy between these three parameters ».

The technological basis
The Orion service modules are made on the technological basis developed for the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) automatic cargo modules: five were built, all developed and integrated also in Turin, and then shipped loaded with tons of supplies to the station. International Space. They were launched with an Ariane carrier, without astronauts, and then reached the Space Station in automatic mode. Orion modules have a structure and characteristics similar to ATVs, they maintain their long photovoltaic wings, but are now equipped with a powerful liquid fuel engine. Orion’s first mission, in 2021, will be unmanned, with the spacecraft making an Earth-Moon journey, orbiting our natural satellite, and then returning to Earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean. Later, in 2022, the mission will be repeated, but with three astronauts on board, for a trip around the Moon. With the third mission, the one with the first module built in Turin, the first landing of two astronauts is planned, and later the Lunar Gateway Lunar Platform will be almost fully operational, which will be formed by a European pressurized module, which also it will pass through Turin for development and integration. From the fourth mission onwards, the lunar program will be started, with subsequent landings and with a subsequent colonization program of the Moon.

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