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On a new mission

23.09.2016

Witzenmann supplies valve bellows for the next generation of NASA spaceships

On 13 September 2016, the Executive Management of Witzenmann greets a high-level delegation of the US Space Agency NASA and the European Space Agency ESA as well as representatives of the world's second largest aerospace company Airbus Defence and Space at the company headquarters in Pforzheim. The background to the visit is one of the most ambitious current projects in international astronautics – the construction of the NASA spaceship Orion. With the Orion mission, NASA is reactivating its plans for astronautics beyond near-to-earth orbits. Witzenmann is supplying components of the fuel supply system for the interplanetary spaceship.

On 12 December 2014, the chapter of the multifunctional space transporter ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle), built by Airbus Defence and Space, came to an end with the fifth supply flight to the International Space Station ISS. At the same time, a new era in astronautics began for Europe: The world space agency ESA and NASA are combining their expertise and jointly building the interplanetary spaceship Orion with the ultimate aim of achieving a mission to Mars in the 2030s.

ESA contributes service module
The Europeans are handling the design work of the so-called European Service Module (ESM) based on the design of the ATV. The task of the service module is to provide the propulsion, energy supply, thermal control as well as the function of additional central elements of the life support system. What is noteworthy about the cooperation is the fact that NASA will be drawing on non-US partners for the delivery of mission-critical components for the first time in its history and a foreign partner will be allowed to develop key technologies for such an important program. The main industrial contractor, Airbus Defence and Space in Bremen, will be taking on the task of building the module.

Safety-relevant component of Witzenmann
Witzenmann will be supplying various valve bellows for the transporter, which can seal the fuel valve against the vacuum in space. At the same time, the highest demands on quality will be imposed on the industrial production of the bellows. The purchasers are counting on the engineering expertise of Witzenmann as well as on the proven, quality-assured and relevant certified processes. Apart from the in-house test facilities and material laboratories, the numerous references from aerospace also speak in favour of the Pforzheim-based company.

Advancing into a new dimension
The great significance of the Orion program becomes obvious when we consider the historical course of previous space research.
For the first time since the 1970s, NASA is planning manned missions beyond the Earth's orbit. Since the last moon landing in 1972, US, Russian and European space activities have been limited to the near-to-earth orbit with research in the International Space Station ISS. The concept of the Apollo space capsule, which allowed the USA to win the first contest for the first manned moon landing, was stopped. NASA concentrated on the multiple operational space shuttle. The Orion program will soon take mankind further than ever before – and Witzenmann can make a contribution towards this.

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