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Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) Enabling a Sustainable Return to the Lunar Surface through NASA GatewayNASA continues to evolve a human exploration approach for beyond low-Earth orbit. The center of this approach is NASA’s Gateway that is envisioned to provide a maneuverable outpost in lunar orbit to extend human presence in deep space and expand on NASA exploration goals. The Gateway represents the initial step in NASA’s architecture for human cislunar operations, lunar surface access and missions to Mars.
NASA announced at the May 2020 NASA Advisory Council’s Human Explorations and Operations Committee a new plan that calls for launching the first two elements of Gateway as a co-manifested mission in the late 2023 timeframe [2]. Launching the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) together reduces mission risk, utilizes the PPE high-powered Electric Propulsion (EP) system to transport both elements to the lunar orbit, and reduces overall cost. NASA and Maxar Technologies have a commercial partnership to develop and demonstration a high-powered Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) spacecraft [3, 4]. The PPE is baselined to include three 12.5-kW Advanced Electric Propulsion Systems (AEPS) and four 6-kW Hall thrusters, currently under development by Maxar, for a total beginning of life propulsion power of over 48-kW [5].
High-power solar electric propulsion is one of the key technologies that has been prioritized because of its significant exploration benefits, specifically, for missions beyond low Earth orbit. Spacecraft size and mass are currently dominated by onboard chemical propulsion systems and propellants that may constitute more than 50 percent of spacecraft mass. This impact can be substantially reduced through the utilization of SEP, due to its higher specific impulse and lower propellant load required to meet the equivalent mission delta-V. Studies performed for NASA’s HEOMD and Science Mission Directorate (SMD) have demonstrated that 40-kW-class SEP provides the necessary capabilities that would enable near term and future architectures, and science missions [6]. Accordingly, NASA has been developing a 12 kW Hall thruster electric propulsion thruster that can serve as the building block for a 40-kW-class SEP capability. The AEPS development, led by the NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), began with the maturation of the high-power Hall thruster. The technology development work has transitioned to AR via a competitive procurement selection for the AEPS contract in May 2016. Management of the AEPS contract is being led by NASA GRC with funding from NASA’s Science Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) under the Technology Demonstration Missions (TDM) program. NASA continues to support the AEPS development leveraging in-house expertise, plasma modeling capability, and world-class test facilities.
Document ID
Document Type
Peter Peterson
(Glenn Research Center Cleveland, Ohio, United States)
Date Acquired
September 26, 2021
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Meeting Information
Meeting: 74th Annual Gaseous Electronics Conference
Location: Huntsville, AL
Country: US
Start Date: October 4, 2021
End Date: October 8, 2021
Sponsors: American Physical Society
Funding Number(s)
WBS: 729200.01.03
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
Technical Review
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