Solar Electric Propulsion Aids Cost-Effective Space Exploration

Solar Electric Propulsion Aids Cost-Effective Space Exploration


Music Music The objective of the solar electric propulsion project is to enable or be a step change in solar electric propulsion. Right now it is used for station keeping for a lot of geo comm sats. What we are trying to do is take it a step further, and have this electric propulsion used as the primary propulsion for satellites. We need to make higher powered solar arrays that can power these higher powered thrusters. The issue with that is that you need them to be stowed for your launch vehicle and they need to be autonomously deployed. We also have support from folks at Glenn and Langley, supporting that work. Historically there was the NSTAR mission and DAWN and those were on the order of 2.5 kilowatts of electric propulsion. The advanced EHF was on the order of 10 kilowatts and that was where they utilized, and that was where they used electric propulsion in a manner it was not designed for. And it succeeded, it saved a billion dollar asset. What we are looking at is a 30 kilowatt SEP TDM. So this would be a step change from the current state of the art, with about a factor of 3 to then something that could support human exploration. And that is on the order of 100 kilowatts to 300 kilowatts. What exactly that is we don’t know for sure because of the particular architectures are trading, but it is on the order of 100-200 kilowatts for human exploration. So as far as compared to chemical propulsion, you don’t need as much propellant and electric propulsion is much more efficient as well. We’re utilizing power from the sun to power our thrusters and also other on-board electronics. So we are utilizing, caching the suns power, with our arrays, using that to power our thrusters. So our tanks that we need to power our thrusters are zenon are much smaller than what you would utilize with chemical propulsion. So what that does it allows you to either send more payload or to use smaller launch vehicles. Both of which save you a lot of money because it costs so much to send things into space. There are 4 main objectives for the mission; there’s technology, technology development, infusing new technology. There’s capability, so having a new capability, a new system, an integrated system again which is the same. And extensibility, something that can be used for this TDM but infused for human missions but also for industry. So those would be our four objectives that we are gearing towards that this mission will be targeting. SEP can be applied to broad range of missions, it would range from science missions to human exploration missions, to DOD to satellite servicing to a plethora of industry opportunities. So there is a lot of things that this particular TDM could enable.

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