Germany Signs Artemis Accords as Artemis II Crew Visits Bremen

ESA and Airbus, in partnership with NASA, recently hosted a media event at the Airbus facility in Bremen, Germany, to showcase the progress of the Artemis II mission. The event was attended by the entire crew of Artemis II, who visited the facility where Airbus is assembling the Orion European Service Module (ESM). The ESM will provide life support and propulsion for the crew during their journey to the Moon and back. This mission follows the successful Artemis I mission, which took place last year.

During the event, the crew participated in a question-and-answer session with the media. They shared their experiences visiting the engineers and facilities in Bremen and discussed their ongoing training activities. The crew also mentioned that they were amused to learn that the European crew refers to Orion as the “Penthouse” that sits on top of the ESM.

One of the highlights of the visit was the tour of the clean room, where ESM-3 is currently being worked on. The crew had limited access to the clean room due to ongoing integration work on the main engine of the spacecraft. The main engine is an AJ-10 engine that was previously used on Space Shuttle missions.

In addition to the Artemis II crew’s visit, it was announced that Germany has joined the Artemis Accords, a non-binding agreement between the United States and partner nations to support human exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The Director General of the German Space Agency traveled to Washington to sign the accords with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

The media event also included interviews with key figures involved in the Orion and ESM programs, including Howard Hu, Manager of the Orion program at NASA, Philippe Berthe, Project Coordination Manager of Orion ESM at ESA, and Dario Saia, European Service Module Programme Manager at Thales Alenia Space.

Hu expressed his excitement about the success of the Artemis I mission, describing it as a “fantastic moment” and a historic achievement. He emphasized the importance of having a spacecraft with significant margins to meet the challenges of future missions.

Berthe highlighted the strong collaboration between NASA and ESA during the Artemis I mission. He praised the performance of the ESM and mentioned that the module exceeded expectations in terms of technical performance, power generation, and thermal control. He also mentioned ongoing work to address minor issues, such as the Power Control and Distribution Unit.

Saia reflected on the lessons learned from the Artemis I mission and emphasized the need to be prepared for future missions with a crew on board. He mentioned the importance of considering the human aspect of the mission and being ready to adapt to new demands and questions from the crew.

The article also provided an update on the production of ESMs for future missions. ESM-3 is in the final stages of integration before its delivery to the Kennedy Space Center, while ESM-4, ESM-5, and ESM-6 are already in various stages of integration and assembly. Saia mentioned that Thales Alenia Space expects to receive an award for the pre-production of ESM-7 and beyond soon.

The article also touched on the potential use of different upper stages for future SLS rockets. Hu mentioned that there would be minor differences in interface requirements between the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) and the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), but both are compatible with the ESM.

Hu confirmed that the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis II mission is fully integrated, and the next step is to stack the Crew Module and ESM and perform integrated testing. The article also mentioned that there are no delays expected on the Orion side for the upcoming Artemis III mission.

The article concluded with discussions about future developments, including hardware changes for the ESM, negotiations for European astronauts to land on the Moon, and the readiness of the Orion program to support different mission profiles.

Overall, the article provided a comprehensive overview of the Artemis II media event and highlighted key updates and insights from various stakeholders involved in the mission.