A service module to nowhere


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As a replacement for its discontinued ATV cargo freighter — which paid its share of ISS — Europe has decided to build a service module for the Orion capsule.

This decision occurred at the same time ESA decided to upgrade Ariane 5 rather than replace it. Both decisions, to my mind, were serious mistakes.

As I have already noted, Ariane 5 will not be able to compete with Falcon 9, and will thus cost a fortune and will likely make no money at all.

As for the service module, Europe could find itself building a service module with no capsule to attach to. The cost of building Orion and its launch rocket are so high it is quite likely that the program will be canceled before completion — as has happened repeatedly with every shuttle replacement program at NASA for the past two decades. Like its ExoMars program which the U.S. abandoned after making a strong commitment, Europe will be left holding the bag once again, betrayed by its dependence on an unreliable U.S. government.

Then again, this could become a boon for Russia again, which has replaced the U.S. in the ExoMars program. If they make their own upgraded capsule they could get a cheap service module, ready-made for interplanetary travel.

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2 comments

  • Patrick Ritchie

    I’m assuming NASA is involved in the negotiations around this, which may indicate they are already forecasting that they won’t have the money to pay Lockheed Martin to build the service module…

  • Pzatchok

    It could be a somewhat clever way of forcing LM to lower its price in order to compete with another contractor.

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