Europe announces a three month delay for Orion service module

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Be still my heart: Delivery of the service module for NASA’s Orion capsule, being built by the European Space Agency, will be three months late due to engineering modifications.

Nico Dettman, head of ESA’s space transportation department, said the delay is partly a result of the fact that several components could not yet be assessed in the full critical design review and need more time to be integrated into the design. Dettman said another issue forcing the delay resulted from a reassessment by NASA of the stresses the service module needs to be capable of handling in orbit. These “in-orbit load” specifications have recently been tightened. But any design modifications will not affect the service module’s core structure, he said. “If it has an impact, it will be limited to the solar array wings, not the structure – nothing where flight hardware has been manufactured that we will have to touch,” Dettman said. “It’s a late modification, but not too late.”

Note that George Bush proposed Orion in January 2004. The first full up test flight, unmanned, is now scheduled for 2018. Thus, they only had 14 years to build this single capsule and service module.

It took NASA less than five years to build the first Apollo capsule and service module, and less than 8 years to fly seven to the Moon. Damn, it took the Allies less than four years to defeat Germany and Japan in World War II. Yet somehow the big government space programs of NASA and ESA can’t build a single manned capsule in less than 14 years.

Doesn’t anyone but me see something wrong with this picture?



  • D K Rögnvald Williams

    We no longer have a can-do generation of leaders.

  • Bah. It was never leaders who were can-do. It was always the general population, which fueled the nation and made it easy for those leaders to look good by taking advantage of the achievements of a free people. Now, those people are no longer free, but dependent on those leaders, and the leaders are, as always, wanting.

  • LocalFluff

    It was decided that ESA would develop the service mpdule, based on the one they made for ATV, right? So that ‘s poor planning to start that relatively late. It is the service module which takes care of much of the life support and ESA has little experience in that. ESA’s strategy for human spacefligt is to specialize on components to the three space agencies who have real human spaceflight programs. That will inevitable lead to extra bureacracy and political disruptions, like their sanction on Russia over Ukraine, and it’s only a matter of time until China will go too far militarily, the US already left participation in Exomars and other missions. And why should they let ESA in when they do it all themselves, and keep the pork at home? Missions managed like the ~$150bn ISS will be very expensive and under constant political threat, even if technically successful. Luxemburg wisely make their asteroid resourses investment outisde of ESA. Bob Zubrin has realized that international cooperation is a burden.

  • LocalFluff

    I mean, it was decided only last year or so, right?

  • Andy Hill

    Seems like NASA are at least responsible in part for the delay by changing the specs. Also why would ESA build the service module any quicker when there would not be an Orion for it or an SLS to launch it on?

  • Edward

    LocalFluff wrote: “Bob Zubrin has realized that international cooperation is a burden.”
    (see heading: “And you thought Congress was slow”)
    “The best argument as to why this isn’t done at the international level is to look at how long it takes anything to get done at the international level. [The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space] was stood up in 1958 or 1959, and the first issue it took up was, ‘Where does outer space begin?’ It’s 60 years later and they still haven’t figured that one out.” — Jim Dunstan.

    LocalFluff asked (possibly rhetorically): “And why should they let ESA in when they do it all themselves, and keep the pork at home?”

    Making a service module and half of a 2nd service module for Orion was part of the price ESA is paying for participating in ISS. Getting 1-1/2 service modules never sounded, to me, like a good deal. It suggests that for any additional manned flights, yet another service module has to be designed, built, and tested. This international cooperation has only turned into a burden, not an asset.

    No, Robert, I see nothing wrong with this picture, because it is a picture of inefficiency, bureaucracy, and what-not-to-do in space exploration. It is, as the phrase goes, picture perfect.

    Unless you thought it should be a picture of efficiency, effectiveness, and exemplary leadership. In that case, we need to change artists. I would recommend choosing from among some of our successful, new, commercial space companies.

    There are some commercial companies collaborating together on various projects, specifically some web-access satellite constellations, and we should watch to see if they have figured out the correct picture for working together and for teamwork.

  • pzatchok

    “a camel is a horse designed by committee”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *