Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NASA Awards $3 Million to Further Research in Solar Electric Propulsion

NASA today announced awards totaling about $3 million to five companies to "develop concepts for demonstrating solar electric propulsion in space."  Each of these companies is expected to produce a report intended to contribute to a mission concept to demonstrate solar electric propulsion technologies.  NASA expects that such propulsion systems will be a part of effective payload delivery to high Earth orbits and beyond.

These awards are part of the first of four Point of Departure (POD) missions from NASA's Flagship Technology Demonstration (FTD) Program, and are the result of proposals submitted in response to a Broad Agency Announcement issued on June 17th.  The mission is intended to show that Solar Electric  Propulsion (SEP) technology could reduce Earth-Mars transit time from months to weeks.

The other three POD missions are:
  • On-orbit storage and transfer of cryogenic fuels (2015)
  • Inflatable habitat module attached to ISS (2016)
  • Use of aerocapture to land large payloads on Mars (2018)
More in-depth information on the FTD Program can be found at Hobby Space.

Let's take a closer look at the first of these companies selected for the concept phase of the first mission (follow-on posts will cover the other award recipients).

Analytical Mechanics Associates Inc., in Hampton, Va.

AMA has worked on commercial and government projects since 1962, providing engineering consulting and services.  In addition to being selected for this mission, they were also selected to participate in the concept phase of the cryogen fuel storage and transfer mission in August of this year.

They are keeping their work on SEP close to the vest, with the exception of a couple of intriguing videos.  The first video is an animation showing a SEP- driven spacecraft heading away from Earth toward the Moon, and the second depicts the SEP Stack arriving at a near-Earth asteroid.

AMA's bread and butter looks to be the development of anaylsis, studies, and recommendations to primarily space-related customers, so this work is righht up their alley.

No comments:

Post a Comment