(Sen) - The Boeing Company has begun developing a mission concept study for solar electric propulsion technologies. Boeing will explore concepts that combine high power solar arrays with advanced electric thrusters to power spacecraft to high Earth orbit and deep space missions.
Boeing is one of five space companies selected by NASA to provide a mission concept around solar electric propulsion technology.
Each company will provide NASA with a report to help define a mission concept to demonstrate solar electric propulsion technologies, capabilities and infrastructure that could be developed for manned deep space missions.
As well as human exploration of deep space, NASA believes that solar electric propulsion technologies could be useful for putting payload into High Earth Orbit.
"Boeing pioneered the use of electric propulsion, and has developed an approach to integrate compact, lightweight, and highly efficient solar arrays with next-generation electric thrusters in future spacecraft,” said Steve Johnston, director of Boeing Phantom Works’ Advanced Space Exploration division. “This technology offers weight and cost advantages while enabling increased on-orbit maneuverability for satellites in Earth orbit, and efficient deep space transportation for human exploration and robotic science missions.”
NASA announced the tender process in June last year and awarded contracts in September 2011 to The Boeing Company, Analytical Mechanics Associates Inc., Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp.
The $3m budget for all 5 studies is being funded by NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program. The Space Technology Office at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland is managing the contracts.
Boeing's Defense, Space & Security division employs 63,000 people.