On Feb. 22, engineers successfully installed ESA’s European Service Module Propulsion Qualification Module (PQM) at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico that was delivered by Airbus – ESA’s prime contractor for the Service Module.


The module will be equipped with a total of 21 engines to support NASA’s Orion spacecraft: one U.S. Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engine, eight auxiliary thrusters and 12 smaller thrusters produced by Airbus Safran Launchers in Germany.

The all-steel PQM structure is used to test the propulsion systems on Orion, including “hot firing” of the OMS engine and thrusters. Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to deep space destinations. Orion will travel more than 40,000 miles beyond the moon to test the spacecraft before it begins to carry humans on future missions. NASA will use the proving ground of space near the moon to establish the deep-space mission operations needed to for long-duration missions.

These missions will incrementally decrease our reliance on the Earth for in-space operations and enable future missions on the journey to Mars.