Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) was recently awarded a contract to study high-power solar electric propulsion flight system technology for NASA deep space and human exploration missions.
"In collaboration with our partners, we are working on alternatives to the typical solar array approach," said Jim Munger, solar electric propulsion program manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "Our concept will be scalable to 300 kilowatts and beyond and have the potential for reducing the cost and complexity of high-power requirements."
The company is partnered with Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Michigan's Department of Aerospace Engineering to create a technology road map for near-term NASA space missions.
NASA's goal is to develop a high-power solar electric propulsion system for a "space tugboat" that can ferry satellites from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO), saving fuel and secondary booster costs. The availability of a solar-powered vehicle would make it possible to launch spacecraft to LEO, then ferry them to GEO, allowing much heavier payloads to reach GEO while still using existing launch vehicles.
The study is designed to develop mission concepts that will be using technology at NASA Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5 or greater, which means that a basic prototype has been validated in a relevant environment (simulating space) and includes initial integration at some level with other operational systems.
Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. With facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
The Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., has been recognized as one of the leading departments of its kind in the country. Professor Alec D. Gallimore will lead the department's effort for Northrop Grumman.
NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio, will manage the project. In addition to other numerous technology development activities, the Center designs game-changing technology for spaceflight that enables further exploration of the universe.
Source: Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC)
Date: Jan 31, 2012