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NASA Selects Companies To Study Solar Electric Propulsion Spacecraft

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
September 15, 2011
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An electric propulsion engine. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA PR — WASHINGTON — NASA has selected five companies to develop concepts for demonstrating solar electric propulsion in space. These capabilities are important for the agency’s future human exploration missions to deep space.

The selected companies, pending successful contract negotiations, are:

— Analytical Mechanics Associates Inc., Hampton, Va.
— Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo.
— The Boeing Company, Huntington Beach, Calif.
— Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colo.
— Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Redondo Beach, Calif.
The awards total approximately $3 million with a maximum individual contract award of $600,000. Each company will provide a final report to help define a mission concept to demonstrate the solar electric propulsion technologies, capabilities, and infrastructure required for sustainable, affordable human presence in space.

The ability to move payloads reliably and cost effectively to high Earth orbits and beyond is critical for deep space human exploration. The mission concept studies will identify technology gaps and look at innovative technical solutions for transportation using solar electric propulsion systems.

NASA will use the studies to plan and implement a future flight demonstration mission that will test and validate key capabilities and technologies. NASA’s Exploration Technology Development Program is funding the studies. The Space Technology Office at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland is managing the contracts.

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