Space

Advanced Electric Propulsion System passes full-power test milestone

Advanced Electric Propulsion S...
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Electric Propulsion System thruster demonstrates full power operation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Electric Propulsion System thruster demonstrates full power operation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California
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Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Electric Propulsion System thruster demonstrates full power operation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California
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Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Electric Propulsion System thruster demonstrates full power operation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California

Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA's Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) thruster has passed a major milestone, completing its first full-power test. Designed to be used by NASA's Gateway lunar orbital outpost as well as manned and unmanned deep-space missions, the AEPS Hall thruster ran stably at power levels ranging from 4.2 kW to 12.5 kW at the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The AEPS will be a key component of the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) module of Gateway, where they will draw 25 kW from the roll-out solar array (ROSA) assembly, which is capable of generating up to 60 kW.

Each of the engines consists of a Xenon Hall thruster, a power processing unit for controlling the electrical power feed, and a Xenon flow controller to throttle the engine's thrust. Backed up by chemical monopropellant thrusters, they will act as the main propulsion and maneuvering system for Gateway. Using 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) of xenon as a propellant, the thrusters are designed to have a service life of 50,000 hours.

"Our AEPS thruster has demonstrated the high levels of power needed to operate the Power and Propulsion Element, and by extension, the entire Gateway," says Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake. "With a successful full-power test complete, Aerojet Rocketdyne is ready for the next phase of our advanced electric propulsion system in support of NASA’s Artemis program."

Two of the engines are set to be launched in 2022, with the first crewed mission to Gateway slated for 2024.

Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne

14 comments
paul314
Wow. That's starting to be respectable levels of thrust. (Back of the envelope says a 100-second burn could change the velocity of the international space station by a couple meters per second, assuming the structure held together.) A ship with a power source could go almost anywhere if they were patient.
alexD
~5 years of life doesn't sound much for a space engine to take anything too far and come back
paul314
@alexD is that 50,000 hours total lifespan, or 50,000 hours of time actually firing? Conventional rockets have thrust-producing design lives measured in minutes to perhaps double-digit hours. Even jet engines need maintenance every thousand hours or less, and rebuilding around 20-30,000 hours...
GaryCamp
to paul314; Where did you see the thrust numbers? I see 11,000 lbs of propellent and 12,500 watts used but no actual thrust figures I can see.
Myfeather626
Awesome!
Myfeather626
Post some more Pictures!
paul314
I know it's just back of the envelope, but I'm going by energy considerations. The If the energy they're talking about actually goes to outgoing material, then momentum transfer blah blah. Definitely order of magnitude rather than exact. But that you can even imagine moving large objects with such thrusters is a big deal.
Colt12
Hypersolar will be rolling out a full size pilot plant in early 2020 that produces hydrogen with solar panels and water. Fuel cells are about to become very popular. I would think that this would include space travel.
Douglas Rogers
The ship will reach exhaust velocity after using 70% of it's mass as fuel. This is the advantage of ion drive.
FranYetso
What are the thrust numbers? Is there a calculation for kW output to actual thrust output in a weight value?