NASA SBIR 2010 Solicitation

FORM B - PROPOSAL SUMMARY


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 10-1 S3.04-8645
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Propulsion Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE: A Modular Electric Propulsion System with On-Demand Power Scaling

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
MSNW, LLC
8551 154th Avenue NE
Redmond, WA 98052 - 3557
(425) 867-8900

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
David Kirtley
dkirtley@msnwllc.com
8551 154th Avenue NE
Redmond, WA 98052 - 3557
(435) 867-8900

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
The Electromagnetic Plasmoid Thruster (EMPT) program demonstrated a next generation propulsion system based on the purely electromagnetic generation and Lorentz acceleration of a magnetically self-confined plasmoid. The Peristaltic Dynamic Acceleration (PDA) stage is an addition to the exhaust of the EMPT that takes an existing, translating plasmoid and adds directed, kinetic energy with a set of sequenced magnetic field coils. The EMPT creates a high-density, magnetized plasmoid known as a Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) using external RF antennas that produce a Rotating Magnetic Field (RMF) throughout the thruster. The large FRC plasma currents together with the radial magnetic field result in a large JxB force that rapidly accelerates the FRC propellant out of the thruster. The Dynamic Acceleration stage then initiates a pulsed magnetic field behind the FRC increasing the magnetic field pressure gradient. These pulsed field coils can very efficiently add kinetic energy to a magnetized, closed-field plasmoid and be used to increase velocity and average thruster power from 1 kW to greater than 20 kW, all without any changes to the original thruster.

The EMPT will be operated at maximum ionization efficiency at 2 kHz. The PDA will then accelerate the high-mass plasmoid to the required mission velocities. In this way power can be added to the device incrementally depending on the mission and power available. This also enables a so-called dual mode thruster that can operate over a wide range of power, thrust, and specific impulse while still maintaining constant gas flow for very long life, deep space missions. The PDA allows for the incremental development and qualification of the thruster, dramatically reducing total costs. Finally, the ability to rapidly and cheaply increase the power of a space-qualified thruster by factors of ten allow for the propulsion technology to grow with the available power for NASA science missions.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The high specific impulse operation of the EMPT will have applications for large earth observing science missions as a replacement for high-mass station keeping thrusters when coupled with ultra-light solar arrays. Additionally, as more (and less massive) power is available for interplanetary science missions, such as advanced radioisotope power (REP) systems and NASA ultra-flex solar panels (SEP), electric propulsion can find even larger roles. A low mass, 1 kW REP propulsion system would enable a host of deep space Neptune and Pluto orbiter missions. An advanced, variable power SEP system would enable small sample and return and orbiter missions from asteroids and planetary moons. Additionally, the variable power and thruster nature can apply immediate mass savings on any interplanetary mission with variable power requirements. The dual mode nature of the PDA will allow for use as both primary propulsion and station keeping for a given mission. Finally, the ability to rapidly and cheaply increase the power of a space-qualified thruster by a factor of ten allow for the propulsion technology to cheaply match and grow with the available power for NASA science missions.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The DOD is primarily interested in propulsion systems as either station keeping for large satellites or primary propulsion for small-sats. The EMPT has application for small satellite main propulsion and LEO-GEO transfer in earth orbit due to its high specific power, mid-mission power scaling, and expected high Thrust-to-Power (T/P). Additionally, the high specific impulse operation of the EMPT will have applications for large telecom and military satellite station-keeping. Finally, the variable power and thrust nature of the PDA has direct application to modern Operational Responsive Space (ORS) missions that require a single propulsion unit capable of in-orbit mission changes.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (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.)
Launch Engine/Booster
Maneuvering/Stationkeeping/Attitude Control Devices


Form Generated on 09-03-10 12:12