[Satnews] Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), has been awarded a contract valued at more than $2.5 million from NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division to develop and demonstrate a high-power electric propulsion system. Once fully developed, the technology will help reduce trip times and the cost of human spaceflight to cislunar space and beyond to Mars.
Under the contract, the Aerojet Rocketdyne team will complete the development of a 100-kilowatt Hall Thruster System, including a 250-kilowatt thruster that uses Aerojet Rocketdyne’s patented multi-channel Nested Hall Thruster technology; critical elements of a 100-kilowatt modular Power Processing Unit (PPU); and elements of the modular xenon feed system. PPUs convert the electrical power generated by a spacecraft’s solar arrays into the power needed for the Hall Thruster. The contract includes system integration testing, and will culminate with a 100-hour test of the 100-kilowatt system at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
“We look forward to working with our teammates in the development of this high-power, high-efficiency propulsion technology,” said Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of Advanced Space and Launch Systems at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “Our advanced Nested Hall Thruster system will help transform the future of human spaceflight, allowing cost-effective delivery of large cargo to support human missions to Mars, and potentially transport astronauts to their destination faster, more efficiently and at a more cost-effective price.”
Aerojet Rocketdyne is also working with the University of Michigan, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Silicon Turnkey Solutions. The contract spans 12 months, with two more 12-month options worth an additional $4 million total.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is one of 12 industry teams that were named by NASA to help build space and human exploration capabilities for deep space destinations as part of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) initiative. The industry teams were selected for their technical ability to mature key technologies and their commitment to the potential applications, both for government and private sector uses, according to NASA. As part of its commitment to a public-private partnership with NASA, the Aerojet Rocketdyne team has invested almost $12 million in the technology to be developed.
Current electric propulsion systems operate at 5 kilowatts or below, and there are plans for near-term spacecraft using between 20 to 50 kilowatts, such as NASA’s Asteroid Re-direct Mission. Much higher powers, such as the scalable 100-kilowatt systems being developed on this program, are required for transportation of the large payloads envisioned for sustained human missions to Mars.