The Solar Electric Propulsion Project shall develop and qualify an advanced 12 kW magnetically shielded EP Hall thruster applicable to human/robotic exploration and commercial spaceflight missions, including the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). The work done under this project, contracted with Aerojet Rocketdyne for thruster design and build, will fabricate and test two qualification thrusters through both environmental as well as 23,000 hours of life qualification testing. The technology will enable the use of high power electric propulsion systems for long term missions such as cargo transports to Mars.More »
As NASA plans to extend human presence across the solar system, including the Moon and Mars, it also seeks to shorten the time required to develop and apply transformative technologies that increase the nation's capabilities in space, enable future missions and support a variety of commercial spaceflight activities.
NASA's Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) project is developing critical technologies to enable government and commercial customers to extend the length and capabilities of ambitious new exploration and science missions. Advanced propulsion technologies such as SEP deliver the right mix of cost savings, safety and superior propulsive power to support a variety of next generation journeys to destinations in deep space.
Energized by the electric power from on-board solar arrays, the electrically propelled system will use 10 times less propellant than a comparable, conventional chemical propulsion system, such as those used to propel the space shuttles to orbit. Yet that reduced fuel mass will deliver robust propulsion capable of boosting robotic and crewed missions well beyond low-Earth orbit: sending exploration spacecraft to distant destinations, ferrying cargo to and from points of interest, laying the groundwork for future missions or resupplying those already underway.More »
|Organizations Performing Work||Role||Type||Location|
|Glenn Research Center (GRC)||Lead Organization||NASA Center||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc.||Supporting Organization||Industry||El Segundo, California|
|Analytical Mechanics Associates, Inc.||Supporting Organization||Industry||Hampton, Virginia|
|Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation||Supporting Organization||Industry||Boulder, Colorado|
|Deployable Space Systems, Inc (DSS)||Supporting Organization||Industry||Goleta, California|
|ExoTerra Resource, LLC||Supporting Organization||Industry||Littleton, Colorado|
|Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)||Supporting Organization||FFRDC/UARC||Pasadena, California|
|Langley Research Center (LaRC)||Supporting Organization||NASA Center||Hampton, Virginia|
|Lockheed Martin Inc.||Supporting Organization||Industry||Palo Alto, California|
|Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)||Supporting Organization||NASA Center||Huntsville, Alabama|
|Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation||Supporting Organization||Industry||Redondo Beach, California|
|Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI)||Supporting Organization||Non-Profit Institution||Brook Park, Ohio|
|Orbital ATK Space Systems Group||Supporting Organization||Industry||Dulles, Virginia|
|Sierra Lobo, Inc.||Supporting Organization||
Minority-Owned Business, Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB)
|Space Systems/Loral, LLC (SSL)||Supporting Organization||Industry||San Jose, California|
|The Boeing Company (Boeing)||Supporting Organization||Industry||Chicago, Illinois|
|Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)||NASA Mission Directorate|
Under the guidance of NASA's Game Changing Development Program, prior to transitioning to the Technology Demonstration Missions Program, the SEP project began developing large, flexible, radiation-resistant solar arrays that can be stowed into small, lightweight, more cost-effective packages for launch to support the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM). After launch, they unfurl, capturing solar energy to provide the electrical power required to enable high-powered electric propulsion.
As the ARRM mission was being sunset, the Gateway Architecture was being established and the 12kW thrusters were identified for use on Gateway's Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). Initially, Aerojet Rocketdyne was tasked with providing two flight thrusters in addition to the two previously-planned qualification thrusters. PPE's prime contractor requested that SEP no longer provide a string (thruster, power processing unit, and Xenon flow controller) but only provide the thruster as the prime preferred to provide the other string components. In February 2020, the Gateway Program decided to co-manifest the launch of PPE with the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). This decision required modifying the number and orientation of the SEP thrusters given the larger mass being delivered to orbit. Aerojet Rocketdyne is now producing three flight thrusters, two of which will be gimballed by PPE to allow finer tuning of trajectory. To stay within mass constraints for the co-manfiested vehicle, STMD made the decision in April 2022 to terminate the Plasma Diagnostics Package (PDP) that was to have flown with the SEP thrusters as developmental flight instrumentation.