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Teams Selected To Research Critical Issues In Electric Propulsion

Electric Propulsion Motor at Test. Photo credit: Pratt & Whitney
Washington DC (SPX) Oct 19, 2004
NASA announced the selection of four teams to conduct research into critical issues in electric propulsion in support of the Vision for Space Exploration. Electric-propulsion critical issues research is part of Prometheus, within NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Total value of the work over a three-year period is approximately $6 million.

NASA's Glenn Research Center (GRC), Cleveland, has been selected to develop an electrode-less microwave electron-cyclotron resonance cathode for high power ion propulsion systems. This award is valued at approximately $1.8 million over three years. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, is an important member of this team.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., has been selected for an approximately $1.7 million, three-year contract to develop a high power two-stage pulsed plasma thruster system. The University of Alabama in Huntsville, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Michigan and Aerojet, Redmond, Wash., will be making valuable contributions to this effort.

Northrop Grumman Space Technology, Redondo Beach, Calif., has been selected to develop a long life pulsed-propellant injector for pulsed inductive thruster systems. This award is valued at approximately $1.9 million over a little more than two years. RLD Associates, Encino, Calif., and VACCO Industries, South El Monte, Calif., are important members of this team.

University of Dayton Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio, has been selected for an approximately $0.4 million contract, with work to be performed over three years, to improve the long-term stability of high temperature magnets for high power electric propulsion systems. GRC is also an important member of this team.

"Advanced propulsion has historically been a key to extending our ability to explore," said Ray Taylor, Acting Deputy Director of Prometheus, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "By taking on the challenges of these critical issues in bringing electric propulsion technologies to readiness, NASA and its partners pave the way for a more cost-effective and exciting set of solar system exploration missions. They will ultimately enable us to achieve our Vision for Space Exploration."

John Warren, Advanced Systems and Technology Manager, Prometheus added, "Electric propulsion thrusters are the 'gas sippers' in the world of space propulsion. If they can be made long lasting, light, throttleable and able to use cheaper fuels, they hold the potential to enable extremely reliable and affordable in-space transportation with a broad range of applications to missions that will achieve the NASA vision."

Each contract award will cover a base and two or three performance periods. Continued support from one period to the next is contingent on program need, availability of funds and each team's ability to meet proposed milestones.

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