This week the folks at NASA and the European Space Agency have agreed to have the latter group to create the service module for none other than the previously announced Orion space capsule. This capsule is being prepared as a crew vehicle for exploration outside of Earth's orbit, and its first test flight is scheduled for the year 2014.
This mission is set to launch with a test service module built by Lockheed Martin as early as next year. This launch will be an unmanned version of the full launched, bringing the craft up to 3,600 miles above the Earth. The first test with the European tech-toting Orion is scheduled for 2017.
The European Space Agency's contribution to this project will be a module that will be providing the full craft with basic supplies as well as propulsion, and thermal control. Power for the full Orion craft will be provided by the ESA's hardware, and "basic supplies" include, but are not limited to, water and breathable air (complete with oxygen!) The ESA has made note that their design will be designed on ATV supply ships already in action, heading up to the International Space Station in the very near future.
The full mission will have its first "in-space tryout" according to NBC News in 2017 complete with the Orion capsule and heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket. This will be an unmanned test flight designed to go around the moon (Earth's moon) and back to Earth. The first full manned flight will take place in 2021 if all goes well in each of the scheduled tests.
[Image via ESA]