Mid-January 2017 Airbus Defence and Space delivered to NASA a propulsion test module for the Orion programme. The Propulsion Qualification Test Model (PQM) will be used to check that the Orion European Service Module (ESM) spacecraft’s propulsion subsystem functions correctly.
On behalf of the European Space Agency, Airbus Defence and Space is prime contractor for the ESM, a key element of NASA’s next generation Orion spacecraft.
Although the PQM will never see space, this is an important step in the development of the Orion programme. Complex systems for human spaceflight must first be tested and qualified on Earth before being used as flight hardware in space. The engineers want to determine how the system behaves in different environments, to ensure that it functions properly.
The test module is travelling via Bremerhaven and Houston/USA to its final destination at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) near Las Cruces in New Mexico/USA. Arrival is expected mid-February. The tests will take place later in the year at WSTF for the qualification of Orion ESM’s propulsion subsystem.