Title of Presentation: Low Cost Electric Propulsion Thruster for Deep Space Robotic Missions

Primary (Corresponding) Author: David Manzella

Organization of Primary Author: NASA Glenn Research Center

Abstract:  Electric Propulsion (EP) has found widespread acceptance by commercial satellite providers for on-orbit station keeping due to the total life cycle cost advantages these systems offer. NASA has also previously sought to benefit from the use of EP for primary propulsion onboard the Deep Space–1 and DAWN spacecraft. These applications utilized EP systems based on gridded ion thrusters, which offer performance unequaled by other EP thrusters. Through the In-Space Propulsion Project a lower cost thruster technology is currently under development designed to make EP intended for primary propulsion applications cost competitive with chemical propulsion systems. The basis for this new technology is a very reliable EP thruster called the Hall thruster. Hall thrusters, which have been flown by the Russians dating back to the 1970’s, have recently been used by the Europeans on the SMART-1 lunar orbiter and by Direct TV and other geostationary spacecraft customers utilizing Space Systems Loral’s  SS/L 1300 geostationary spacecraft bus. Since the inception of the Hall thruster, over 100 of these devices have been used with no known failures. This paper describes the latest accomplishments of a development effort that seeks to improve Hall thruster technology by increasing its specific impulse, throttle-ability, and lifetime in order to make this type of EP thruster applicable to NASA deep space science missions. In addition to discussing recent progress on this task, this paper describes the performance and cost benefits projected to result from the use of advanced Hall thrusters for deep space science missions.