NASA Selects Studies For Gateway Power And Propulsion Element

Lockheed Martin artist rendering of the NextSTEP habitat docked with Orion in cislunar orbit as part of a concept for the Deep Space Gateway. Orion will serve as the habitat’s command deck in early missions, providing critical communications, life support and navigation to guide long-duration missions. Image Credit: PRNewsfoto/Lockheed Martin)

November 1, 2017 – NASA has selected five U.S. companies to conduct four-month studies for a power and propulsion element that could be used as part of the deep space gateway concept. The agency is studying the gateway concept with U.S. industry and space station partners for potential future collaborations. These latest studies will help provide data on commercial capabilities as NASA defines objectives and requirements as well as help reduce risk for a new powerful and efficient solar electric propulsion (SEP) technology in deep space.

NASA needs a 50-kW SEP system, which is three-times more powerful than the capabilities available today, for future human missions. Earlier this year, NASA sought study proposals under Appendix C of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Broad Agency Announcement. The request identified 23 topic areas including potential commercial synergies to support development of a power and propulsion element.

Combined funding awarded for the selected studies is approximately $2.4 million. The selected companies are:

  • Boeing of Pasadena, Texas
  • Lockheed Martin of Denver, Colorado
  • Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems of Louisville, Colorado
  • Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California
  • “NASA will use these studies to gain valuable insight into affordable ways to develop the power and propulsion element leveraging commercial satellite lines and plans,” said Michele Gates, director of the Power and Propulsion Element at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Advancing a high power SEP system will help drive future exploration missions and help take humans farther into deep space than ever before.”

    A new power and propulsion element will leverage advanced SEP technologies developed by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. An overarching objective of these studies is to understand the driving technical differences between prior SEP-powered mission concepts and potential new requirements for NASA’s deep space gateway concept.

    For more information about NASA’s NextSTEP, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/nextstep