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Solar Electric Propulsion Vehicle Demonstration to Support Future Space Exploration MissionsHuman and robotic exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will require enabling capabilities that are efficient, affordable, and reliable. Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) is highly advantageous because of its favorable in-space mass transfer efficiency compared to traditional chemical propulsion systems. The NASA studies have demonstrated that this advantage becomes highly significant as missions progress beyond Earth orbit. Recent studies of human exploration missions and architectures evaluated the capabilities needed to perform a variety of human exploration missions including missions to Near Earth Objects (NEOs). The studies demonstrated that SEP stages have potential to be the most cost effective solution to perform beyond LEO transfers of high mass cargoes for human missions. Recognizing that these missions require power levels more than 10X greater than current electric propulsion systems, NASA embarked upon a progressive pathway to identify critical technologies needed and a plan for an incremental demonstration mission. The NASA studies identified a 30kW class demonstration mission that can serve as a meaningful demonstration of the technologies, operational challenges, and provide the appropriate scaling and modularity required. This paper describes the planning options for a representative demonstration 30kW class SEP mission.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Smith, Bryan K.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Nazario, Margaret L.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Cunningham, Cameron C.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
August 26, 2013
Publication Date
May 7, 2012
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Space Propulsion 2012(Bordeaux)
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 736466.0 1, I
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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