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Electric Propulsion Upper-Stage for Launch Vehicle Capability EnhancementThe NASA In-Space Propulsion Technology Project Office initiated a preliminary study to evaluate the performance benefits of a solar electric propulsion (SEP) upper-stage with existing and near-term small launch vehicles. The analysis included circular and elliptical Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) transfers, and LEO to Low Lunar Orbit (LLO) applications. SEP subsystem options included state-of-the-art and near-term solar arrays and electric thrusters. In-depth evaluations of the Aerojet BPT-4000 Hall thruster and NEXT gridded ion engine were conducted to compare performance, cost and revenue potential. Preliminary results indicate that Hall thruster technology is favored for low-cost, low power SEP stages, while gridded-ion engines are favored for higher power SEP systems unfettered by transfer time constraints. A low-cost point design is presented that details one possible stage configuration and outlines system limitations, in particular fairing volume constraints. The results demonstrate mission enhancements to large and medium class launch vehicles, and mission enabling performance when SEP system upper stages are mounted to low-cost launchers such as the Minotaur and Falcon 1. Study results indicate the potential use of SEP upper stages to double GEO payload mass capability and to possibly enable launch on demand capability for GEO assets. Transition from government to commercial applications, with associated cost/benefit analysis, has also been assessed. The sensitivity of system performance to specific impulse, array power, thruster size, and component costs are also discussed.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Marshall Space Flight Center
Document Type
Conference Paper
Kemp, Gregory E.
(Purdue Univ. West Lafayette, IN, United States)
Dankanich, John W.
(Gray Research, Inc. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Woodcock, Gordon R.
(Gray Research, Inc. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Wingo, Dennis R.
(SkyCorp Inc. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
May 14, 2007
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Meeting Information
Meeting: 54th Joint JANNAF Propulsion Meeting
Location: Denver, CO
Country: United States
Start Date: May 14, 2007
End Date: May 17, 2007
Sponsors: Department of the Army, NASA Headquarters, Department of the Air Force, Department of the Navy
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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