Airbus give space shuttle engine a new life aboard Orion service module

The second European-built Orion service module will be powered by one of two Space Shuttle Atlantis Orbital Maneuvering System engines.
The European Service Module’s main propulsion is provided by a refurbished Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System engine | Image credit: NASA

One of two orbital manoeuvring engines that flew aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis is being given new life as the main propulsion for a European-built Orion service module.

The European Service Module (EMS) is the powerplant of NASA’s next-generation Orion spacecraft providing propulsion, electrical power, and consumables like oxygen and water. The service module is part of the European Space Agency’s long-term involvement in Artemis, NASA’s push to return to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo missions.

At Airbus’ facility in Bremen, Germany work on the second EMS is progressing with the installation of the module’s main engine, a refurbished space shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engine that flew aboard Atlantis.

The OMS engine, now designated the Orion Main Engine (OME), will equip the spacecraft with 6,000 pounds of thrust. It will be used to perform all major manoeuvres during an Orion mission. Eight auxiliary thrusters, NASA-provided Aerojet R4D-11 engines, will serve as backup to the OME, while 24 ESA-provided RCS thrusters will provide attitude control.

The refurbished Atlantis OMS engine is one of five flight-proven space shuttle engines that will be used aboard the first five EMS. Following Artemis 5, an as yet unselected engine will be chosen to replace the OMS engines.

Expected to be delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida this year, EMS-2 will be utilised for Artemis 2. The mission will be the first to carry a crew and the first mission to return humankind to the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972. The four-person crew will complete a flyby of the Moon without entering lunar orbit before returning back to Earth.

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.