April 23, 2015 – Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp company, has been selected by the NASA Advanced Exploration Systems Division to start negotiations for a contract to design and demonstrate an advanced propulsion system that would enable human spaceflight to cislunar space and beyond to Mars.
Under the first phase of the contract, Aerojet Rocketdyne would complete the development of a 100‑kilowatt Hall Thruster System, including its patented 250kW multi-channel Nested Hall Thruster (NHT), a 100‑kilowatt modular Power Processing Unit (PPU), and critical elements of the modular feed system. PPUs convert the electrical power generated by a spacecraft’s solar arrays into the power needed for the Hall Thruster. The contract includes options for system integration testing, and culminates with a 100-hour test of the 100‑kilowatt system.
“Our high-power Nested Hall Thruster system will provide the best path in the development of faster transportation to the moon, Mars and beyond,” said Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of Advanced Space and Launch Systems at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “When it comes to cargo and crew transportation, our advanced propulsion system will dramatically decrease the trip times and cost of human exploration.”
Roger Myers, executive director for Advanced In-Space Programs, said, “Our unique flight experience with 5‑kilowatt Hall Thruster systems enables us to efficiently develop these very high-power, scalable solar electric propulsion systems. There are many applications for these systems, including new government and commercial missions that will benefit from high power, fast trip times.”
As part of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP), NASA recently announced Aerojet Rocketdyne as one of 12 new industry partnerships to help build space and human exploration capabilities for cislunar space and Mars missions, and for work at the International Space Station. The commercial partners were selected for their technical ability to mature key technologies and their commitment to the potential applications, both for government and private sector uses, according to NASA.
Current electric propulsion systems operate at 5 kilowatts or below, and there are plans for near-term spacecraft using between 20 to 40 kilowatts, such as NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). Much higher powers, such as the scalable 100-kilowatt systems being developed on this program, are required for transportation of the large payloads envisioned for human exploration missions.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader providing propulsion and energetics to the space, missile defense and strategic systems, tactical systems and armaments areas, in support of domestic and international markets. GenCorp is a diversified company that provides innovative solutions that create value for its customers in the aerospace and defense, and real estate markets. Additional information about Aerojet Rocketdyne and GenCorp can be obtained by visiting the companies’ websites at www.Rocket.com and www.GenCorp.com.