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By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
June 24, 2011
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ESA, NASA Discuss Joint Manned Missions
Aviation Week

The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA are discussing plans to build a joint U.S.-European spacecraft based on existing designs that could ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and one day carry humans beyond low Earth orbit.

Speaking at the Paris air show June 20, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said the space agencies are hashing out a plan that would combine the service module of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) — a spacecraft built by EADS Astrium that is used to haul cargo to the orbiting complex — with NASA’s Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, a space capsule based on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that Lockheed Martin Space Systems has been developing for NASA over the past six years.

“We are working with NASA to see how we can combine the current capabilities of ATV with what NASA is doing on crew transportation systems to see how we can make a joint vehicle,” Dordain says. The two sides are shooting for a rough outline of the joint concept and its development costs by fall, allowing ample time for ESA member states to evaluate the proposal ahead of their budget-setting ministerial council at the end of 2012.

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