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Xenon Acquisition Strategies for High-Power Electric Propulsion NASA MissionsSolar electric propulsion (SEP) has been used for station-keeping of geostationary communications satellites since the 1980s. Solar electric propulsion has also benefitted from success on NASA Science Missions such as Deep Space One and Dawn. The xenon propellant loads for these applications have been in the 100s of kilograms range. Recent studies performed for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) have demonstrated that SEP is critically enabling for both near-term and future exploration architectures. The high payoff for both human and science exploration missions and technology investment from NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) are providing the necessary convergence and impetus for a 30-kilowatt-class SEP mission. Multiple 30-50- kilowatt Solar Electric Propulsion Technology Demonstration Mission (SEP TDM) concepts have been developed based on the maturing electric propulsion and solar array technologies by STMD with recent efforts focusing on an Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM). Xenon is the optimal propellant for the existing state-of-the-art electric propulsion systems considering efficiency, storability, and contamination potential. NASA mission concepts developed and those proposed by contracted efforts for the 30-kilowatt-class demonstration have a range of xenon propellant loads from 100s of kilograms up to 10,000 kilograms. This paper examines the status of the xenon industry worldwide, including historical xenon supply and pricing. The paper will provide updated information on the xenon market relative to previous papers that discussed xenon production relative to NASA mission needs. The paper will discuss the various approaches for acquiring on the order of 10 metric tons of xenon propellant to support potential near-term NASA missions. Finally, the paper will discuss acquisitions strategies for larger NASA missions requiring 100s of metric tons of xenon will be discussed.
Document ID
Document Type
Herman, Daniel A. (NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
Unfried, Kenneth G. (Linde North America, Inc. Murray Hill, NJ, United States)
Date Acquired
December 15, 2015
Publication Date
June 3, 2015
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion and Power
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Joint-Army-Navy-NASA-Air Force (JANNAF) Spacecraft Propulsion Subcommittee (SPS) Meeting(Nashville, TN)
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 729200.06.03.05
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
Ion Propulsion
Electric Propulsion
Hall Thrusters

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IDRelationTitle20150023080See AlsoXenon Acquisition Strategies for High-Power Electric Propulsion NASA Missions