SPACE FLIGHT SYSTEMS RADIOISOTOPE POWER SYSTEMS PROGRAM OFFICE NATIONAL CENTER FOR SPACE EXPLORATION RESEARCH EXTERNAL PARTNERS EDUCATION/OUTREACH SPACE EXPLORATION BENEFITS PROGRAM SUPPORT IMAGE GALLERY



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In-Space Propulsion Technologies Program

 
The In-Space Propulsion Program work being performed at the Glenn Research Center develops primary propulsion technologies that can benefit near and mid-term science missions by reducing cost, mass and/or travel times. The In-Space Program is working to develop next generation electric propulsion technologies, including Ion and Hall thrusters.  Solar Sails, which are a form of propellantless propulsion, are also being developed. Solar Sails rely on the naturally occurring sunlight for the propulsion energy. Other propulsion technologies being developed include advanced chemical propulsion and aerocapture.
   
  Next Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT)
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NEXT Thruster at Full Power

NEXT is one of the projects in the solar electric propulsion technology area.  This project is developing the next generation ion engine technology and is managed by the NASA Glenn Research Center.  NEXT is a propulsion system that could revolutionize the way we send science missions deeper into the solar system.  The thruster uses xenon gas and electrical power to drive future spacecraft. The goal of NEXT program is to develop an ion thruster capable of supporting several key NASA missions in the next decade.  The thruster system will enable NASA to reach destinations in our solar system that cannot be reached by conventional chemical propulsion.

The major feature of NEXT is a thruster that utilized design knowledge gained from the ion thruster that successfully propelled the Deep Space 1 to a flyby of asteroid Braille and the comet Borrelly.  NEXT will have a significant increase in power compared to that of Deep Space 1's ion thruster while increasing efficiency and system performance characteristics.  Advanced power processing, xenon propellant management and thruster gimbal technologies are also being developed by the team to complete the NEXT ion propulsion system

  + Next Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Fact Sheet pdf icon
+ Next Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Image Gallery
 
  Multi-Mission Earth Entry Vehicle (MMEEV)
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Ion Thrusters

The Multi-Mission Earth Entry Vehicle (MMEEV) is a flexible design concept which can be optimized or tailored by any sample return mission, including lunar, asteroid, comet, and planetary (e.g. Mars), to meet that mission’s specific requirements. Based on the Mars Sample Return (MSR) EEV design, which due to planetary protection requirements, is designed to be the most reliable space vehicle ever flown, the MMEEV concept provides a logical foundation by which any sample return mission can build upon in optimizing an EEV design which meets their specific needs By leveraging common design elements, this approach could significantly reduce the risk and associated cost in development across all sample return missions, while also providing significant feed-forward risk reduction in the form of technology development, testing, and even flight experience, for an eventual MSR implementation. 

 
+ Multi-Mission Earth Entry Vehicle (MMEEV)
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  Advanced Chemical Propulsion
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Advanced Chemical
Chemical propulsion systems have historically been the primary means for transportation of payloads in space because they generate the very large amounts of thrust required to overcome the effect of Earth's gravity. 

Many advanced chemical propellants are being analyzed and tested to determine their performance and applicability to in-space propulsion.  Chemical rocket systems include solid, cryogenic liquid, and storable liquid propellants, as well as hybrid and cold gas rockets.
 
+ Advanced Chemical Propulsion Fact Sheet
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  Aerocapture Technology
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Aerocapture
Aerocapture is another form of propellantless propulsion.  This technology uses the atmosphere of a destination to achieve a velocity change necessary to be captured into orbit. 

Aerocapture, a flight maneuver that inserts a spacecraft into its desired orbit once it arrives at a planet, is just one of many propulsion technologies being developed by NASA technologists and their partners in industry and academia, led by NASA’s In-Space Propulsion Technology Office at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The Center implements the In-Space Propulsion Technology Program on behalf of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
 
+ Aerocapture Technology Fact Sheet
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  Systems Analysis and ISPT Tool Development
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Mission and Systems Analysis
Mission and systems analysis looks at NASA missions to optimize trajectories, trip times and payload delivered.  These studies help determine what technologies are needed to achieve the desired Science objectives.  These studies also compare technologies, spacecraft concepts and designs to most efficiently goals.  The ISPT project also develops tools for the user community to assess the applicability of In-Space Technologies.

The Tools can be found here.

+ Systems Analysis Fact Sheet pdf icon
 
  Advanced Electric Propulsion
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Emerging Technologies

As NASA’s Science Mission Directorate progresses its robotic missions from observers to rovers to sample return missions, the demanding goals exceed the capabilities of conventional propulsion technologies and will ultimately require improved spacecraft capabilities such as those obtained from advanced electric propulsion technologies. The In-Space Propulsion Technology Project is maturing advanced electric propulsion technology product lines for near-term flight infusion opportunities, including advanced ion and hall propulsion systems.

+ Advanced Electric Propulsion Fact Sheet pdf icon
 
  Mars Ascent Vehicle
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Emerging Technologies

A joint Mars exploration program between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) has set a long term focus on the return of samples from Mars. The current proposed campaign, shown in figure 1, calls for a set of three missions potentially starting in 2018 to 1) Collect a cache of samples, 2) Land, retrieve and launch the samples into Mars orbit, and 3) Rendezvous with the orbiting sample container and return them to Earth for study.

+ Mars Ascent Vehicle Fact Sheet pdf icon
 
   
  The Glenn Research Center's In-Space Propulsion program is teamed up with the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Langley Research Center (LaRC), Ames Research Center (ARC), Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Johnson Space Center (JSC), and Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC).

 

 

 

In-Space Propulsion Technologies Program News