NASA PR — NASA issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) seeking proposals for mission concept studies of a solar electric propulsion system demonstration to test and validate key capabilities and technologies for future exploration missions.
Multiple studies have shown the advantages of using solar electric propulsion to efficiently transport heavy payloads from low Earth orbit to higher orbits. This concept enables the delivery of payloads to low Earth orbit via conventional chemical rockets. The use of solar electric propulsion could then spiral payloads out to higher energy orbits, including Lagrange point one, a potential assembly point in space between Earth and the moon. This approach could facilitate missions to near Earth asteroids and other destinations in deep space.
Science missions could use solar electric propulsion to reach distant regions of the solar system, and commercial missions could use solar electric propulsion tugs to place, service, resupply, reposition and salvage space assets. NASA’s strategic roadmaps for exploration, science and advanced technology all consider solar electric propulsion a vital and necessary future capability.
NASA is examining potential mission concepts for a high-power solar electric propulsion system demonstration. Flying a demonstration mission on a representative trajectory through the Van Allen radiation belts and operating in actual space environments could reveal unknown systems-level and operational issues. Mission data will lower the technical and cost risk associated with future solar electric propulsion spacecraft. The flight demonstration mission would test and validate key capabilities and technologies required for future exploration elements such as a 300 kilowatt solar electric transfer vehicle.
This Solar Electric Propulsion Demonstration Mission Concept Studies announcement is open to all non-government United States institutions, academia, industry and nonprofit organizations. NASA anticipates making multiple firm-fixed-priced awards with a total value up to $2 million. The deadline for submitting proposals is July 18.
NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland is managing the broad agency announcement for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and relevant technology activities for the Office of the Chief Technologist. For more information about the announcement, visit: