Twelve companies were selected by NASA to partner with Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) to advance concept studies in advanced propulsion, habitation and small satellites. The ultimate goal of these public-private partnerships is to develop capabilities for commercial endeavors in space and human exploration to deep-space destinations such as cis-lunar space and Mars.
Dr. Alec Gallimore is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan. His Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Lab (PEPL) is part of the “Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc. of Redmond, Washington” NextSTEP team in the advanced propulsion category. “Ad Astra Rocket, Aeroject Rocketdyne and MSNW will develop propulsion systems that generate 50 kW to 300 kW range,” according to aerospace-technology.com. PEPL’s X3 Nested-channel Hall thruster forms the nucleus of the advanced spacecraft propulsion system Aerojet Rocketdyne will be developing for NASA. The X3 was developed jointly with NASA and the USAF with funding from them to the tune of about $1M and is the first prototype plasma propulsion system that could be used to support the human exploration of Mars. PEPL will receive about $1M over the next 3 years for this effort.
“This type of public-private partnership helps NASA stimulate the US space industry, while expanding the frontiers of knowledge, capabilities and opportunities in space.”
— Jason Crusan, Division Director
Human Exploration and Operations Directorate Advanced Exploration Systems, NASA