Solar Electric Propulsion Makes NASA’s Psyche Spacecraft Go

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is photographed in July 2021 during the mission’s assembly, test, and launch operations phase at JPL. Hall thrusters – two of which are visible beneath red round protective covers – will propel the spacecraft to its target in the main asteroid belt. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Futuristic electric thrusters emitting a cool blue glow will guide the Psyche spacecraft through deep space to a metal-rich asteroid.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — When it comes time for NASA’s Psyche spacecraft to power itself through deep space, it’ll be more brain than brawn that does the work. Once the stuff of science fiction, the efficient and quiet power of electric propulsion will provide the force that propels the Psyche spacecraft all the way to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The orbiter’s target: a metal-rich asteroid also called Psyche.

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India’s Bellatrix Aerospace Opens Private Propulsion Laboratory

ISRO Chairman K Sivan cuts the ribbon on Bellaxtrix Aerospace’s propulsion laboratory. (Credit: ISRO)

Dr K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO/ Secretary, DOS inaugurated the spacecraft research laboratory at M/s Bellatrix Aerospace, the startup company inside IISc, Bangalore. This privately funded propulsion lab has in-house facilities for development and testing of electric and green chemical propulsion technologies.

Dr Sivan appreciated the young team for establishing the state-of-the art facility which houses equipment such as integrated thermal high vacuum test facilities, catalytic reactors, propellant preparation facilities, specialized high temperature coating facilities, etc. Chairman, ISRO also witnessed the firing of Hall Thruster at the facility.

New Space Tech Research Institutes to Advance Electric Propulsion, Entry Systems

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Technology drives exploration, and as NASA eyes deep-space human exploration, technology is at the forefront of its plans. Preparing for these missions requires technology development within the agency and research by external experts in various fields.

As part of this effort, NASA will establish two new university-led Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs), which will join four already active institutes. The new STRIs will bring together researchers from different disciplines and organizations to tackle challenges associated with electric propulsion ground testing and atmospheric entry systems modeling. The new STRIs aim to advance these game-changing technologies for exploring the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

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Furukawa Electric, JAXA Working to Reduce Weight and Cost of Next-generation Hall Thrusters

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd. (Headquarters: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, President: Keiichi Kobayashi, hereinafter “Furukawa Electric”) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Headquarters: Chofu City, Tokyo, Chairman: Hiroshi Yamakawa, under the “JAXA Space Innovation Partnership (J-SPARC) (*1)”, “JAXA”) have started co-creation activities through the development of power sources for next-generation electric propulsion machines (Hall thrusters) for small satellites.

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Apollo Fusion Propulsion Systems Selected by Saturn Satellite Networks

A complete ACE Max thruster unit being tested. (Credit: Apollo Fusion)

Mountain View, Calif. (Apollo Fusion PR) – December 16, 2020 – Saturn Satellite Networks Inc. has selected Apollo Fusion propulsion systems for Saturn’s NationSat geostationary communications satellites. The Apollo 1.4 kW ACE Max propulsion system will be used for orbit transfer to geosynchronous orbit and on-orbit station keeping on 15 year missions.

Saturn selected Apollo Fusion because Apollo’s unique Electric Propulsion system supports the Saturn objectives to enable its NationSat small GEO sats to perform functions of much larger satellites, hence substantially reducing the barrier to spacecraft development and manufacturing.

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Spaceflight Inc. Unveils Propulsive Orbital Transfer Vehicles to Launch Smallsats to Custom Orbital Destinations

Sherpa variants (Credit: Spaceflight Inc.)

New OTVs, slated to launch in 2021, will minimize the impact of extended development timelines and schedule delays while providing increased launch flexibility 

SEATTLE, November 12, 2020 (Spaceflight PR) — Spaceflight Inc., the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, announced today that it is developing two additional next-generation orbital transfer vehicles (OTVs) that will debut in 2021. Its first, Sherpa-FX, will fly on a fully dedicated rideshare mission with SpaceX, dubbed SXRS-3 by Spaceflight, no earlier than December 2020. The next two ESPA-class space vehicles in the company’s portfolio are designed to provide more orbital diversification, including flexible manifest changes, deployment to multiple altitudes and orbital planes, and rapid launch solutions. 

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Advanced Electric Propulsion Thruster for NASA’s Gateway Achieves Full Power Demonstration

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Electric Propulsion System thruster demonstrates full power operation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

PASADENA, Calif., Nov. 08, 2019 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA recently demonstrated an Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) thruster at full power for the first time, achieving an important program milestone. Aerojet Rocketdyne-developed AEPS thrusters are slated to be used on the Power and Propulsion Element of NASA’s Gateway, the agency’s orbiting lunar outpost for robotic and human exploration operations in deep space.

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Apollo Fusion Raises $10 million to Ramp Production of Satellite Thrusters

ACE thruster firing (Credit: Apollo Fusion)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (Apollo Fusion PR) — Satellite propulsion company Apollo Fusion recently closed their Series B round of $10 million from Reid Hoffman from Greylock Partners. Reid Hoffman, also the co-Founder of LinkedIn, has joined Apollo Fusion’s Board of Directors.

Apollo’s mission is to help “enable the second space race” with a new satellite propulsion system that delivers 3 times more total impulse per kg (or per volume) than existing propulsion systems on the market.

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Busek Company Selected for NASA Funding to Develop Spacecraft Advanced Propulsion

Busek Company will develop advanced CubeSat propulsion and Hall Effect thrusters (HETs) with the help of NASA funding.

The space agency has selected the Massachusetts-based company for five Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 awards. The contracts are worth up to $125,000 apiece over 13 months.

The three proposals focused on CubeSats and small satellites include:

  • a low impulse bit electrospray thruster control system;
  • a compact high performance plasma propulsion system (CHPPPS); and,
  • an iodine-compatible photocathode for RF ion thrusters.

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NASA Selects In-Space Propulsion Projects for SBIR Funding

NASA has selected six in-space propulsion projects for funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The phase II contracts last for two years and are worth up to $750,000.

The awards include:

e beam, Inc.
Beaverton, OR
Cathode for Electric Space Propulsion Utilizing Iodine as Propellant

Plasma Controls, LLC
Fort Collins, CO
Iodine Hollow Cathode

Quest Thermal Group
Arvada, CO
Multi-Environment MLI: Novel Multi-Functional Insulation for Mars Missions

Streamline Automation, LLC
Huntsville, AL
Hybrid Propulsion Technology for Robotic Science Missions

TDA Research, Inc.
Wheat Ridge, CO
Novel Sorbent to Remove Radioactive Halogens and Noble Gases from NTP Engine Exhaust

WASK Engineering, Inc.
Cameron Park, CA
High Response Control Valve

Summaries of the proposals follow.

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Thruster for Mars Mission Breaks Records

A side shot of the X3 firing at 50 kilowatts. (Credit: NASA)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (University of Michigan PR) — An advanced space engine in the running to propel humans to Mars has broken the records for operating current, power and thrust for a device of its kind, known as a Hall thruster.

The development of the thruster was led by Alec Gallimore, University of Michigan professor of aerospace engineering and the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering.

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NASA Seeks Information from Potential Partners for a Solar Electric Propulsion Flight Demonstration

Advanced solar electric propulsion will be needed for future human expeditions into deep space, including to Mars. Shown here is a 13-kilowatt Hall thruster being evaluated at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Hall thrusters trap electrons in a magnetic field and use them to ionize the onboard propellant. It uses 10 times less propellant than equivalent chemical rockets. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate released a Request for Information (RFI) to potential partners for a technology demonstration of advanced solar electric propulsion (SEP) technology on Aug. 8, with responses due by Sept. 8, 2017.

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NASA Space Technology Year in Review

Mars 2020 Lander Vision System flight tested aboard a Masten “Xombie” up to 1,066 feet on December 9, 2014 at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. (Credits: NASA Photo / Tom Tschida)
Mars 2020 Lander Vision System flight tested aboard a Masten “Xombie” up to 1,066 feet on December 9, 2014 at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. (Credits: NASA Photo / Tom Tschida)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is dedicated to pushing the technological envelope, taking on challenges not only to further space agency missions near Earth, but also to sustain future deep space exploration activities.

“In 2016, we completed several major program milestones,” explains Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for STMD.

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NASA Awards $67 Million Contract for Advance Electric Propulsion System

Advanced solar electric propulsion will be needed for future human expeditions into deep space, including to Mars. Shown here is a 13-kilowatt Hall thruster being evaluated at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Hall thrusters trap electrons in a magnetic field and use them to ionize the onboard propellant. It uses 10 times less propellant than equivalent chemical rockets. (Credit: NASA)
Advanced solar electric propulsion will be needed for future human expeditions into deep space, including to Mars. Shown here is a 13-kilowatt Hall thruster being evaluated at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Hall thrusters trap electrons in a magnetic field and use them to ionize the onboard propellant. It uses 10 times less propellant than equivalent chemical rockets. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. of Redmond, Washington, to design and develop an advanced electric propulsion system that will significantly advance the nation’s commercial space capabilities, and enable deep space exploration missions, including the robotic portion of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and its Journey to Mars.

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SSL Advances Solar Electric Propulsion With Busek

SSL concept for solar electric propulsion spacecraft (Credit: SSL)
SSL concept for solar electric propulsion spacecraft (Credit: SSL)

PALO ALTO, CA, Feb. 10, 2016 (SSL PR) – Space Systems Loral (SSL), a leading provider of commercial satellites, today announced that it is collaborating with a U.S. technology innovator, Busek Co, Inc. to advance the current capability of solar electric propulsion systems. SSL and Busek plan to build on the current collaboration specifically to address the future needs of NASA and other U.S. government agencies.

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