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- June 2, 2023
Advanced Electric Propulsion Thruster for NASA’s Gateway Achieves Full Power Demonstration
PASADENA, Calif., Nov. 08, 2019 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA recently demonstrated an Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) thruster at full power for the first time, achieving an important program milestone. Aerojet Rocketdyne-developed AEPS thrusters are slated to be used on the Power and Propulsion Element of NASA’s Gateway, the agency’s orbiting lunar outpost for robotic and human exploration operations in deep space.
The state-of-the-art AEPS Hall thruster operated at 12.5 kilowatts (kW) as part of its final conditioning sequence during testing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The thruster demonstrated stable operation at power levels ranging from 4.2 kW to 12.5 kW. Full electric propulsion thruster string integration will take place early next year.
“Our AEPS thruster has demonstrated the high levels of power needed to operate the Power and Propulsion Element, and by extension, the entire Gateway,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake. “With a successful full power test complete, Aerojet Rocketdyne is ready for the next phase of our advanced electric propulsion system in support of NASA’s Artemis program.”
The Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element is a high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft capable of producing 60 kW – which is three times more powerful than current capabilities. Two Aerojet Rocketdyne AEPS thruster strings will be employed on the spacecraft. Each string is comprised of a Xenon Hall thruster, a power processing unit that controls the electric power to the thruster, and a Xenon flow controller which controls the flow of Xenon to the thruster.
The AEPS thruster is part of a larger Aerojet Rocketdyne AEPS development effort under contract with NASA’s Glenn Research Center. Early system integration tests for AEPS were successfully conducted last August, proving the system’s ability to successfully convert power at a high efficiency level, producing minimal waste heat. NASA aims to launch the Power and Propulsion Element in late 2022 in support of the Artemis program, which will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.
About Aerojet Rocketdyne
Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader that provides propulsion systems and energetics to the space, missile defense and strategic systems, and tactical systems areas, in support of domestic and international customers. For more information, visit www.Rocket.com and www.AerojetRocketdyne.com. Follow Aerojet Rocketdyne and CEO Eileen Drake on Twitter at @AerojetRdyne and @DrakeEileen.
13 responses to “Advanced Electric Propulsion Thruster for NASA’s Gateway Achieves Full Power Demonstration”
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Please please please lets get this to space ASAP, before Artemis is cancelled. At least one tangible result in hand
No one’s talking about cancelling Artemis. In fact, most of the space faring world is signing up for it. So sleep tight tonight.
Give it a bit of time and let the costs sink in, and then wait for the elections
True – the elections could shake things up, especially in regard to a 2024 moon landing date (which is already in trouble)
However, there seems to be bipartisan congressional support around a 2028 date, so I think that path continues to be funded as long as a new President (in the case that there is a new President) isn’t dead set against it.
Boeing lobbyists could possibly kill Gateway by getting their Exploration Upper Stage funded…
A wildcard is possible smooth and quick progress on Starship/SuperHeavy.
All good points.
This tech may help
And the thrust achieved at 12.5 kW was?
How much does it matter?. High isp for a long time equals lots and lots of deltaV. Thrust is only important if you’re in a hurry. I’d be more concerned about the price – AR have not got where they are today by being cost efficient.
I personally like to have more complete information before determining the merit of this accomplishment, call it a failing of mine, if you will. I don’t appreciate the argumentative nature of your response, Michael. If you like being treated like a mushroom, then so be it, but, I for one, do not. Paul.
The failing you speak of is to imagine that the level of instantaneous thrust is the metric against which any merit should be judged, since the accomplishment in this case to successfully run at higher than average power levels.
How much thrust is a highly valid question. A flashlight can give an ISP of 30,000,000, but it ain’t taking you anywhere.
quickest answer from google on hall thrusters says a 1.35kw unit gives 83mN – assuming a linear increase with input power 12.5kw might give in the region of 760mN – how many mN were you hoping for?.
For comparison a Merlin1D Vac gives 981,000N, about 1.3 million times more powerful.
I wasn’t hoping or any particular thrust, just pointing out that thrust matters as well as ISP. Thrust that is too low for a mission is not useful regardless of how high the ISP. If for instance it take 20 years to reach Mars orbit, then thrust is so low as to be useless even if no propellant is used at all.