NASA’s hot new engine coming soon

In an important step toward developing better propulsion for space travel NASA announced on April 19th that Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. has been selected to “design and develop” an advanced electric propulsion system to be used on its Asteroid Redirect Mission and the manned mission to Mars. The system would also be made available for commercial use.

The phrase “design and develop” does not mean that Aerojet is starting at the theoretical level. Rather Aerojet will be working with theory and technology which has been evolving since the 1950’s

Quoting NASA:

“Aerojet Rocketdyne will oversee the development and delivery of an integrated electric propulsion system consisting of a thruster, power processing unit (PPU), low-pressure xenon flow controller, and electrical harness. NASA has developed and tested a prototype thruster and PPU that the company can use as a reference design.”

Aerojet’s contract is for thirty-six months with an estimated value of $67 million.
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