JSC's Dr. Harold “Sonny” White has developed the physics theory basis for utilizing the quantum vacuum to produce thrust. The engineering implementation of the theory is known as Q-thruster. During FY13, three test campaigns were conducted that conclusively demonstrated tangible evidence of Q-thruster physics with measurable thrust bringing the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) from TRL 2 to early TRL 3. This project will continue with the development of the technology to a breadboard level by leveraging the most recent NASA/industry test hardware. This project will replace the manual tuning process used in the 2013 test campaign with an automated Radio Frequency (RF) Phase Lock Loop system (precursor to flight-like implementation), and will redesign the signal ports to minimize RF leakage (improves efficiency). This project will build on the 2013 test campaign using the above improvements on the test implementation to get ready for subsequent Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) testing at Glenn Research Center (GRC) and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in FY 2015. Q-thruster technology has a much higher thrust to power than current forms of electric propulsion (~7x Hall thrusters), and can significantly reduce the total power required for either Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) or Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NEP). Also, due to the high thrust and high specific impulse, Q-thruster technology will greatly relax the specific mass requirements for in-space nuclear reactor systems. Q-thrusters can reduce transit times for a power-constrained architecture.
Q-thruster technology is a mission enabling form of electric propulsion and is already being traded by NASA's Concept Architecture Team (CAT) & Human Space Flight (HSF) Architecture Team (HAT) as an electric propulsion effector for Asteroid Recovery Vehicle (ARV) mission extensibility options out to Mars. The Nuclear Electric Propulsion mission allows for rapid transit while allowing for a heavy, more near-term reactor design and the Solar Electric Propulsion mission allows for a power starved approach with similar mission durations to Design Reference Architecture - DRA 5.0 that would not be possible without the Q-thruster technology.More »
Due to the increased thrust to power, the Q-thruster can enable power constrained Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) missions to close without needing chemical kick stages as might be used in a SEP-chemical hybrid mission. Further, Q-thrusters can reduce the Initial Mass in Low Earth Orbit (IMLEO) necessary for a mission or span of missions associated with an architecture.
Q-thruster technology has a much higher thrust to power than current forms of electric propulsion (~7x Hall thrusters), and can significantly reduce the total power required for either Solar Electric Propulsion or Nuclear Electric Propulsion. Also, due to the high thrust and high specific impulse, Q-thruster technology will greatly relax the specific mass constraints for in-space nuclear reactor systems. Q-thrusters can reduce transit times for a power-constrained architecture.
Q-thrusters can enable the communications satellite industry to have assets with longer lifetimes, and potentially reduce the thermal load on the satellite due to reduced power requirements for a target thrust necessary for orbit maintenance. This would translate into reduced overall cost for the development of the asset.
Q-thrusters can enable Department of Defense (DoD) missions that require multiple orbital plane changes and hence large delta-v budgets.More »
|Organizations Performing Work||Role||Type||Location|
|Johnson Space Center (JSC)||Lead Organization||NASA Center||Houston, TX|
|Glenn Research Center (GRC)||Supporting Organization||NASA Center||Cleveland, OH|
|Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)||Supporting Organization||NASA Center||Pasadena, CA|
|Lockheed Martin Space Systems||Supporting Organization||Industry|
|Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)||Supporting Organization||NASA Center||Huntsville, AL|
|Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)||U.S. Government|