An engine for Mars: Aerojet wins $67M NASA contract for solar electric propulsion
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21-04-2016, 06:19 PM
An engine for Mars: Aerojet wins $67M NASA contract for solar electric propulsion
Quote:Aerojet Rocketdyne’s operation in Redmond, Wash., has won a $67 million contract from NASA to design and develop an advanced electric propulsion system that could power future trips to an asteroid and Mars.

The goal of the 36-month project is to deliver an integrated system that could improve fuel efficiency by a factor of 10 over today’s chemical rocket propulsion systems, and double the thrust capability of current electric propulsion systems.

Link.


Exciting, what are the main obstacles in developing this?

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21-04-2016, 06:51 PM
RE: An engine for Mars: Aerojet wins $67M NASA contract for solar electric propulsion
(21-04-2016 06:19 PM)GenesisNemesis Wrote:  Exciting, what are the main obstacles in developing this?

Unleaded?

I don't know. I'm still waiting for the cure for cancer or the common cold.

Great news though. Science forges ahead. Thumbsup

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I will call him a liar and a dog here and now.
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21-04-2016, 07:20 PM
RE: An engine for Mars: Aerojet wins $67M NASA contract for solar electric propulsion
Lockheed uses a Hall Effect thruster (made by Aerojet) on their AEHF spacecraft. After what appears to have been a rag left in the second stage engine ("kick motor"), that thruster took the spacecraft into its final orbit, but it took 9 months instead of a few hours.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_E..._thrusters

Note that the further a space vehicle gets from the sun, the less it gets in terms of solar energy. This is why the space community uses RTGs for far missions. The Voyagers used them-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisoto..._generator

Some people don't like them because of the possibility that a launch failure will release Plutonium into the environment.
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23-04-2016, 09:32 PM
RE: An engine for Mars: Aerojet wins $67M NASA contract for solar electric propulsion
(21-04-2016 06:19 PM)GenesisNemesis Wrote:  
Quote:Aerojet Rocketdyne’s operation in Redmond, Wash., has won a $67 million contract from NASA to design and develop an advanced electric propulsion system that could power future trips to an asteroid and Mars.

The goal of the 36-month project is to deliver an integrated system that could improve fuel efficiency by a factor of 10 over today’s chemical rocket propulsion systems, and double the thrust capability of current electric propulsion systems.

Link.


Exciting, what are the main obstacles in developing this?

The biggest problems with ion thrusters are their very low thrust. The best we have available at the moment produces 3 Newtons, or about as much thrust as a potato sitting in the palm of your hand and that one gobbles power. More typically they yield in the range of 100 mN, about the weight of a marble.

That makes them utterly useless for take-off or landing, especially since they can't function in atmosphere. Not even Mars' sad excuse for an atmosphere. The low thrust means that it takes a very long time for them to accelerate or decelerate. That makes a manned mision impossible since it would take so long that it's likely we'd invent better thrusters before you got halfway there.

Their advantage is that they are extremely efficient. Models currently in use get 5 to 10 times more specific impulse than a chemical rocket can produce. This makes them exceptionally useful for long-duration low-mass probes. For example, the Dawn probe masses 1240 kg (fully fueled) and can manage a delta-V change of >10 km/s using a mere 425 kg of Xenon propellant. To put that in perspective that's nearly enough to get to escape velocity from the surface of the Earth all by itself, if it could launch from the surface of the Earth, for slightly less propellant mass than the world bench press record. Unfortunately it takes 4 days to go from 0 to 60 mph.

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23-04-2016, 10:45 PM
RE: An engine for Mars: Aerojet wins $67M NASA contract for solar electric propulsion
(23-04-2016 09:32 PM)Paleophyte Wrote:  Unfortunately it takes 4 days to go from 0 to 60 mph.

Kinda like my truck then, eh?

In seriousness, good post, thanks. Smile
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