Status Report

Aerojet Rocketdyne Receives Contract to ContinueEvolutionary Xenon Gridded Ion Thruster System Development

By SpaceRef Editor
April 6, 2015
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Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, has been awarded a contract worth approximately $18 million from NASA Glenn Research Center to complete the development of NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster-Commercial (NEXT-C) Gridded Ion Thruster System. The NEXT-C Gridded Ion Thruster System is designed to power government and commercial spacecraft to deep-space destinations faster, farther and more fuel efficiently than any other propulsion technology currently available.

“The high performance of the NEXT-C Gridded Ion Thruster System will enable dramatically expanded planetary science and commercial missions as never seen before,” said Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of Advanced Space and Launch Systems at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “It is truly the next step in the world’s robotic exploration of the solar system, and we are honored to provide the advanced propulsion system to make it happen.”

“The NEXT-C program builds on our extensive development experience with arcjet, Hall and ion thruster systems, and will enable new space transportation systems and architectures,” said Roger Myers, executive director for Advanced In-Space Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “The Aerojet Rocketdyne team is very excited about the opportunities that the NEXT-C program creates.”

Under the contract, Aerojet Rocketdyne will complete the development of both the NEXT-C Gridded Ion Thruster System and power processing units (PPUs), and deliver two complete flight systems to NASA. The PPUs convert the electrical power generated by the solar arrays into the power needed for each component of the thruster.

According to NASA, the NEXT System is capable of performing a variety of missions to deep-space destinations such as Mars and the outer planets while reducing cost and trip time. In 2013, NASA completed a record-setting 50,000-hour lifetest of the NEXT-C Gridded Ion Thruster System, establishing the performance and lifetime capabilities required for a wide range of demanding missions. Operating at three times the power level of the current low-power NASA systems, the NEXT-C Gridded Ion Thruster System produces three times the thrust level. This higher-power operating capability enables commercial applications in addition to science missions.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader providing propulsion and energetics to the space, missile defense and strategic systems, tactical systems and armaments areas, in support of domestic and international markets. GenCorp is a diversified company that provides innovative solutions that create value for its customers in the aerospace and defense, and real estate markets. Additional information about Aerojet Rocketdyne and GenCorp can be obtained by visiting the companies’ websites at and

SpaceRef staff editor.