NASA SBIR 2008 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 08-1 S3.04-9007
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Propulsion Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: Long Life 600W Hall Thruster System for Radioisotope Electric Propulsion

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Busek Co., Inc.
11 Tech Circle
Natick, MA 01760 - 1023
(508) 655-5565

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Bruce M. Pote
11 Tech Circle
Natick, MA 01760 - 1023
(508) 655-5565

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 5 to 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Radioisotope Electric Propulsion (REP) offers the prospect for a variety of new science missions by enabling use of Hall Effect propulsion in the outer solar system, particularly at distances beyond the limits of practical solar photovoltaic power. Radioisotope Power System (RPS) technology under development by the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) provides high system-specific power and lifetime needed for REP applications. The low power (0.5 to 1.0 kW) and multiyear (30,000 hour) lifetime HET systems needed for these missions will be addressed in the proposed multi-phase effort. The project leverages a long life 600 W Hall thruster currently under development by Busek as part of the 2007 Innovative Partnership Program based of an innovative life-extending technology developed under SMD In-Space Propulsion Technology (ISPT) project by the NASA Glenn Research Center.

In Phase I we will evaluate system level needs to meet REP mission requirements. The life time of the existing cathode will be determined by a combination of experimental and numerical methods. A methodology and algorithms for sensing and suppressing thruster discharge current oscillations will be incorporated into the thruster control system. An integrated system demonstration that includes the thruster life extension technology will be performed.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
This effort is aligned with the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) strategic goals and roadmaps to develop new propulsion technologies that can deploy spacecraft about planetary bodies in deep space and interesting science vantage points. A study conducted by the SMD ISPT Project in 2004 confirmed the significant potential for REP for space science. The following are the three missions examined by this study:

• Trojan Asteroid Orbiters
• Jupiter Polar Orbiter with probes
• Comet Surface Sample Return

Other evaluations and assessments performed over the last decade have confirmed the benefits of REP for a variety of potential missions, including orbiters about Pluto, outer Solar System; and extensive surveys of major asteroid groups. The simplicity and low cost of Hall thrusters (relative to ion thrusters) would also allow use of REP on both midsize (Discovery and New Frontiers) and flagship class missions.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Low power long life Hall thrusters would also find application on DOD satellites that require high delta V capability to perform tactical mission. Commercial communications satellites could benefit from a lower cost long life Hall thruster for station keeping and de-orbit.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Electrostatic Thrusters
Feed System Components
Radiation-Hard/Resistant Electronics

Form Generated on 11-24-08 11:56