[meteorite-list] NASA Works to Improve Solar Electric Propulsion for Deep Space Exploration
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2016 16:39:40 -0700 (PDT)
April 19, 2016
NASA Works to Improve Solar Electric Propulsion for Deep Space Exploration
NASA has selected Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. of Redmond, Washington, to design
and develop an advanced electric propulsion system that will significantly
advance the nation's commercial space capabilities, and enable deep space
exploration missions, including the robotic portion of NASA's Asteroid
Redirect Mission (ARM) and its Journey to Mars.
The Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) contract is a 36-month
cost-plus-fixed-fee contract with a performance incentive and total value of
$67 million. Work performed under the contract could potentially increase
spaceflight transportation fuel efficiency by 10 times over current chemical
propulsion technology and more than double thrust capability compared to
current electric propulsion systems.
"Through this contract, NASA will be developing advanced electric
propulsion elements for initial spaceflight applications, which will pave the
way for an advanced solar electric propulsion demonstration mission by the
end of the decade," said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA's
Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) in Washington. "Development of
this technology will advance our future in-space transportation capability
for a variety of NASA deep space human and robotic exploration missions, as
well as private commercial space missions."
Aerojet Rocketdyne will oversee the development and delivery of an integrated
electric propulsion system consisting of a thruster, power processing unit
(PPU), low-pressure xenon flow controller, and electrical harness. NASA has
developed and tested a prototype thruster and PPU that the company can use as
a reference design.
The company will construct, test and deliver an engineering development unit
for testing and evaluation in preparation for producing the follow-on flight
units. During the option period of the contract, if exercised, the company
will develop, verify and deliver four integrated flight units - the
electric propulsion units that will fly in space. The work being performed
under this contract will be led by a team of NASA Glenn Research Center
engineers, with additional technical support by Jet Propulsion Laboratory
This work will directly complement recent advanced solar array systems work,
also funded by STMD. NASA anticipates the electrical power to operate this
advanced electric propulsion flight system in space will be generated by
solar arrays using structures similar to those that were developed under the
solar array systems contracts.
NASA has been refining development of spaceflight electric propulsion
technology for more than five decades, the first successful ion electric
propulsion thruster being developed at Glenn in the 1950s. The first
operational test of an electric propulsion system in space was Glenn's
Space Electric Rocket Test 1, which flew on July 20, 1964.
Since then, NASA has increasingly relied on solar electric propulsion for
long-duration, deep-space robotic science and exploration missions to
multiple destinations, the most recent being NASA's Dawn mission. The
Dawn mission, managed by JPL, surveyed the giant asteroid Vesta and the
protoplanet, Ceres, between 2011 and 2015.
The advanced electric propulsion system is the next step in NASA's Solar
Electric Propulsion (SEP) project, which is developing critical
technologies to extend the range and capabilities of ambitious new science
and exploration missions. ARM, NASA's mission to capture an asteroid
boulder and place it in orbit around the moon in the mid-2020s, will test the
largest and most advanced SEP system ever utilized for space missions.
For more information about NASA technology, visit:
Received on Tue 19 Apr 2016 07:39:40 PM PDT