Aerojet to develop advanced electric propulsion system for Nasa’s deep space missions – Aerospace Technology

has selected Aerojet Rocketdyne to design and develop an that is expected to advance the US’s commercial space capabilities and enable deep space exploration missions, including the robotic portion of its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM).

The electric propulsion system will developed under the Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) deal, which is a 36-month cost-plus-fixed-fee contract with a performance incentive and total value of $67m.

Compared with the existing chemical propulsion technology, the new advanced electric propulsion technology could increase spaceflight transportation fuel efficiency by ten times, as well as more than double the thrust capability compared to current electric propulsion systems.

Nasa space technology mission directorate (STMD) associate administrator Steve Jurczyk said: “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.

“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.”

Under the AEPS contract, Aerojet Rocketdyne will supervise the development and delivery of an integrated electric propulsion system that includes a thruster, a power processing unit (PPU), low-pressure xenon flow controller, and electrical harness.

Aerojet will also construct, test and deliver an development unit for testing and evaluation in preparation for producing the follow-on flight units.

During the option period of the contract, if used, the company will develop, verify and deliver four integrated flight units, which are the electric propulsion units to fly in space. The work will be led by a team of Nasa Glenn Research Center engineers and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineers.

Nasa expects that the electrical power required to operate this advanced electric propulsion flight system in space will be produced by solar arrays using structures similar to those that were developed under the solar array systems contracts.

The advanced electric propulsion system is a part of Nasa’s Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) project, which is developing critical technologies to extend the range and capabilities of new science and exploration missions.