UK To Invest in Orion Service Module

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Britain has committed €20 million ($26 million) to help pay for Europe's continued participation in the ISS.

Flush with cash from an unprecedented 25% boost to its overall ESA contribution level, Britain's decision to back ISS may have ended a Franco-German standoff over the so-called NASA barter element, under which Europe has proposed to develop a service module based on its Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) that would fly on the U.S. space agency's Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle.

Until this morning, France and Germany had been at an impasse with regard to the service module proposal, a development valued at €450 million that could cover Europe's share of common operating costs aboard the space station for the period 2017-20, and one that Germany – ESA's largest financial contributor – steadfastly supports.

“In the interest of maintaining the European commitments to ISS, and because of our belief there are excellent British technologies that can play a significant role in Orion, we will make a once-off cash contribution of €20 million to the ISS,” said David Willetts, U.K. Minister of Universities and Science, who is leading a British delegation at ESA's budget ministerial in Naples, Italy, this week.

“We think this is a great opportunity for Britain to contribute technologies, particularly on Orion,” Willetts said.

In return, U.K-based COM DEV Europe and the U.K. division of chemical space propulsion manufacturer American Pacific Corp. will play a role in the service-module development.

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