NASA will pump approximately $67 million into a novel solar electric engine space project. It will be something entirely new and defy all definitions.
NASA will be making a solid investment into novel solar electric engines. These will come in handy for a space mission that is something altogether new on the scene.
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It will be the very first robotic mission to a near earth object. This could be an asteroid or meteor. Termed the Asteroid Redirect Mission, it will occur after the year 2020.
A spacecraft will be designed in such a way that it could catch an asteroid with an arm-like device. Then astronauts will collect samples from the surface of this near earth object.
NASA has signed on Aerojet Rocketdyne for a three year contract. The amount of money being invested is $67 million, according to Space.com. This will allow for a solar electric program that will aid space travel.
Fuel economy will be increased by ten times the current levels. Such a project may even help NASA send people to Mars. Thrust capacity will be doubled too via this methodology. The moment ARM becomes a viable project, there will be a lot of work that will be done to make it a success.
The engines that will be made belong to the next generation of space devices. Yet they will be formed in the crucible of today. Aerojet Rocketdyne will put the plans on paper, construct the basics of the engines from scratch and finally road-test them.
The highly efficient solar electric propulsion (SEP) systems will have a remarkable impact on how we deal with the outer space question in the future.
This is rather like laying down railroad tracks for space travel. Although it is in its infancy, who knows how far such baby steps may lead us in the times to come when they become giant steps.
Basically, in SEP, solar power is converted to electric power. This in turn drives ions through a nozzle. Such a system of transportation is far more advanced than ordinary rocket technology.
In fact, the two can hardly be compared to each other. Although SEP systems require longer time spans to cover the distance, they are very economical and require less fuel.
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Also the Mars mission may use this nascent technology to cover the distance between our own planet and the Red Planet.