36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 10 Advanced Propulsion
Special Session, Tuesday, November 9, 2004, 10:30am-12:00noon, Lewis

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[10.03] Electric Propulsion

R. Baggett (NASA MSFC)

Next Generation Electric Propulsion (NGEP) technology development tasks are working towards advancing solar-powered electric propulsion systems and components to levels ready for transition to flight systems. Current tasks within NGEP include NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT), Carbon Based Ion Optics (CBIO), NSTAR Extended Life Test (ELT) and low-power Hall Effect thrusters. The growing number of solar electric propulsion options provides reduced cost and flexibility to capture a wide range of Solar System exploration missions. Benefits of electric propulsion systems over state-of-the-art chemical systems include increased launch windows, which reduce mission risk; increased deliverable payload mass for more science; and a reduction in launch vehicle size-- all of which increase the opportunities for New Frontiers and Discovery class missions. The Dawn Discovery mission makes use of electric propulsion for sequential rendezvous with two large asteroids (Vesta then Ceres), something not possible using chemical propulsion.

NEXT components and thruster system under development have NSTAR heritage with significant increases in maximum power and Isp along with deep throttling capability to accommodate changes in input power over the mission trajectory. NEXT will produce engineering model system components that will be validated (through qualification-level and integrated system testing) and ready for transition to flight system development. NEXT offers Discovery, New Frontiers, Mars Exploration and outer-planet missions a larger deliverable payload mass and a smaller launch vehicle size.

CBIO addresses the need to further extend ion thruster lifetime by using low erosion carbon-based materials. Testing of 30-cm Carbon-Carbon and Pyrolytic graphite grids using a lab model NSTAR thruster are complete. In addition, JPL completed a 1000 hr. life test on 30-cm Carbon-Carbon grids.

The NSTAR ELT was a life time qualification test started in 1999 with a goal of 88 kg throughput of Xenon propellant. The test was intentionally terminated in 2003 after accumulating 233 kg throughput. The thruster has been completely disassembled and the conditions of all components documented. Because most of the NSTAR design features have been used in the NEXT thruster, the success of the ELT goes a long way toward qualifying NEXT by similarity

Recent mission analyses for Discovery and New Frontiers class missions have also identified potential benefits of low-power, high thrust Hall Effect thrusters. Estimated to be ready for mission implementation by 2008, low-power Hall systems could increase mission capture for electric propulsion by greatly reducing propulsion cost, mass and complexity.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to www.inspacepropulsion.com. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: Randy.M.Baggett@nasa.gov

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.