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NASA Request for Information: Solar Electric Propulsion Flight Demonstration Partnership

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Headquarters has released a Request for Information (RFI), titled "Solar Electric Propulsion Flight Demonstration Partnership" on August 8, 2017. Complete RFI details (including due dates) can be accessed via NSPIRES as noted below. RFI responses must be submitted through NSPIRES.
1. Open the NSPIRES homepage at http://nspires.nasaprs.com/
2. Select "Solicitations"
3. Select "Open Solicitations"
4. Select " NNH17ZOA003L"

NASA has been developing advanced solar electric propulsion (SEP) technologies in the form of large, lightweight, deployable, flexible blanket solar arrays and a 13-kilowatt Hall Effect thruster with magnetic shielding for long life operation. These technologies are intended to benefit human missions to Mars, activities in cis-lunar space, and highly-capable science missions. The advanced SEP technology could also provide more affordable primary power and highly efficient orbit transfer and station-keeping capabilities for commercial space missions.

NASA is interested in a commercial or other government agency partnership for a potential flight demonstration of these advanced SEP technologies, and in particular, the 13-kilowatt Hall thruster. Under an existing contract, NASA expects to complete the development and qualification of the electric propulsion system by 2019. NASA would like to see a flight demonstration that employs one or several of these electric propulsion systems as soon as possible following ground qualification. In a potential partnership, NASA would provide the electric propulsion systems and would seek a partner who could provide a spacecraft and launch for the demonstration at a minimal, or preferably no additional, cost to NASA. It is expected that the partner would utilize this spacecraft and mission for their own additional commercial, scientific, or government purposes.

Data gathered from this RFI will be used to assess the level of interest in industry or other government agencies in a partnership for a SEP flight demonstration. Such a mission would provide for a timely demonstration of the technology and increase the potential for more rapid commercial infusion of the technology. Another major benefit to NASA is the significant reduction of technical risk for the Deep Space Gateway and subsequent NASA exploration applications by demonstrating the SEP technology in advance.

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