Earlier this week, NASA and ESA announced that the ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) will be adapted for use as a service module for the Orion spacecraft.
The ATV-4 (named the Albert Einstein) mission is scheduled for launch to the ISS on April 18, 2013. As with previous missions, the Albert Einstein will deliver fuel, water, consumables, food, and other supplies to the station.
This week's announcement outlines an agreement in which ESA will provide one service module, with replacement parts as needed.
As was the case in earlier agreements reached between NASA and its international partners, it is thought that the agreement was reached through a barter arrangement. In return for the service module, ESA will likely receive additional operational capability on the ISS. It is also possible a future flight crew on the Orion would include an ESA astronaut.
Mike Salsgiver, 64, is a space enthusiast, a tech geek, and is active in federal, state, and local government and political circles. Mike lives in Portland, OR and enjoys RV traveling.