NASA Seeks Industry’s Concepts For Deep Space Power, Propulsion

NASA’s deep space gateway concept. Image Credit: NASA

July 18, 2017 – NASA has issued two documents to help the agency identify current capabilities, as well as areas requiring additional study for advanced power and propulsion spacecraft within the American aerospace industry. This advanced technology is needed to support NASA’s deep space exploration goals.

The agency published a Request For Information (RFI) July 17 to capture the U.S. industry’s current capabilities and plans for spacecraft concepts that potentially could be advanced to provide power and advanced solar electric propulsion (SEP) to NASA’s deep space gateway concept. NASA wants to know about conceptual designs, current industry commercial capabilities and development approaches, and potential for future commercial applications that support a cost-effective partnership model with the agency.

NASA also published a synopsis for Appendix C of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), which seeks proposals for areas requiring further study for this specific application of advanced SEP. The complete appendix is expected to be issued later this summer.

“Through the RFI, we hope to better understand industry’s current state-of-the-art and potential future capabilities for deep space power and propulsion,” said Michele Gates, director of the Power Propulsion Element at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With the upcoming BAA, we will fund industry-led studies to identify the most urgent areas for focus over the next several years, for the benefit of human spaceflight, as well as commercial applications.”

Neither the RFI nor the BAA are mechanisms for awarding a contract to develop a power and propulsion bus. NASA is in the early stages of acquisition planning with the goal of developing a flight unit payload to launch on the agency’s second integrated mission of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft.

NASA is examining a lunar-orbiting, crew-tended spaceport concept that would serve as a gateway to deep space. In addition to the power propulsion element, the gateway would include a habitat to extend Orion crew time, a docking capability, and would be serviceable by logistics modules to enable research and replenishment for deep space transport infrastructure.

The RFI is available here:

https://www.fbo.gov/notices/33368e53181a28d9fb7d9e8582aff8c7

The BAA Synopsis is available here:

https://www.fbo.gov/notices/4a9a70d396472e75e5ad5bca8f6af881

Responses to this RFI are due July 28, 2017. Potential respondents may submit written questions to the email identified in the RFI up until July 26. NASA plans to host a virtual forum at 9 a.m. MDT on July 24, 2017, to provide an overview of the RFI and answer questions from U.S. industry. Connection details are provided in the RFI.