Aerojet is again in the news, this time to share their success after demonstrating the Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) for future space exploration. These critical tests will ensure that NASA will be able to go on deep space missions.
Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully completed its early systems integration test for NASA’s Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) program, a next-generation propulsion capability that will further enable deep space missions. Under the AEPS contract, Aerojet Rocketdyne will develop and qualify a 13-kilowatt Hall thruster string for NASA, bolstering future exploration missions, as well as commercial space endeavors.
This most recent NASA test focused on the power elements of the AEPS Hall thruster string: the discharge supply unit (DSU) and the power processing unit (PPU). The test proved the system’s ability to successfully convert power at a high efficiency level, producing minimal waste heat. The early integrated systems test combined a breadboard AEPS PPU and a DSU with a NASA development thruster and tested them in a thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
With the early systems integration test in the books, the team will move into the design finalization and verification phase leading up to the critical design review (CDR), in which the design will be finalized and cleared for production.
The AEPS thrusters could be used on the power and propulsion element of NASA’s Gateway, the agency’s lunar orbiting outpost for robotic and human exploration operations in deep space. Built with commercial partners, the power and propulsion element will demonstrate 50-kW class solar electric propulsion to support exploration on and near the Moon, and beyond, including Mars.
“By staying on the cutting edge of propulsion technology, we have positioned ourselves for a major role not only in getting back to the Moon, but also in any future initiative to send people to Mars,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president. “AEPS is the vanguard for the next generation of deep space exploration and we’re thrilled to be at the mast.”
Drakes continued that their AEPS discharge supply unit performed exceptionally, yielding significant conversion efficiency improvements important for future demanding missions. These results are a testament to the Aerojet Rocketdyne team’s focus and dedication to advancing the state-of-the-art in this critical in-space technology area.