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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[10.06] Emerging Propulsion Technologies

J. A. Bonometti (NASA MSFC)

The Emerging Propulsion Technologies (EPT) technology area is a branch of the In-Space Program that serves as a bridge to bring high-risk/high-payoff technologies to a higher level of maturity. Emerging technologies are innovative and, if successfully developed, could result in revolutionary science capabilities for NASA science missions. EPT is also charged with the responsibility of assessing the technology readiness level (TRL) of technologies under consideration for inclusion in the ISP portfolio. One such technology is the Momentum-eXchange/Electrodynamic Reboost (MXER) tether concept, which is the current, primary investment of EPT. The MXER tether is a long, rotating cable placed in an elliptical Earth orbit, whose rapid rotation allows its tip to catch a payload in a low Earth orbit and throw that payload to a high-energy orbit. Electrodynamic tether propulsion is used to restore the orbital energy transferred by the MXER tether to the payload and reboost the tether's orbit. This technique uses solar power to drive electrical current collected from the Earth's ionosphere through the tether, resulting in a magnetic interaction with the terrestrial field. Since the Earth itself serves as the reaction mass, the thrust force is generated without propellant and allows the MXER facility to be repeatedly reused without re-supply. Essentially, the MXER facility is a ‘propellantless’ upper stage that could assist nearly every mission going beyond low Earth orbit. Payloads to interplanetary destinations could especially benefit from the boost provided by the MXER facility, resulting in launch vehicle cost reductions, increased payload fractions and more frequent mission opportunities. Synergistic tether technologies resulting from MXER development could include science sampling in the upper atmosphere, remote probes or attached formation flying, artificial gravity experiments with low Coriolis forces, and other science needs that use long, ultra-light strength or conducting cables in space. Tether development additionally embraces the science investigation of ionospheric physics, micrometeorite and space particulates in LEO and precise earth environment knowledge of gravity fields, solar flux, .thermal environments and magnetic fields.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://mxer.tntech.edu/. 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: Joseph.A.Bonometti@nasa.gov

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