The four month studies will look at how to develop new efficient solar electric propulsion (SEP) technology in deep space.
NASA needs a 50kW SEP system, which is three-times more powerful than the capabilities available today, for future human missions. The initial specification is for a 27-32 kW Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) that can be extended for a 50 kW-class vehicles. The ultimate aim is for a 300kW system for the gateway.
The five companies – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada and Space Systems/Loral – are sharing $2.4 million for the development.
"NASA will use these studies to gain valuable insight into affordable ways to develop the power and propulsion element leveraging commercial satellite lines and plans,” said Michele Gates, director of the Power and Propulsion Element at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Advancing a high power SEP system will help drive future exploration missions and help take humans farther into deep space than ever before."
The power and propulsion element will use new solar technology developed by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and the aim is to have the systems available for prototype flights on the Orion spacecraft by 2019 and as part of the EM-2 program for the Deep Space Gateway up to 2025.
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