Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Propellant-Free Space Propulsion Technology Marks Critical Milestone At NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Date:
February 5, 2002
Source:
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center
Summary:
Propellant-free propulsion technology has taken a critical step toward reality, completing a series of systems tests at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The Propulsive Small Expendable Deployer system – called ProSEDS – is a tether-based propulsion experiment that draws power from the space environment around Earth, allowing the transfer of energy from the Earth to the spacecraft.

Propellant-free propulsion technology has taken a critical step toward reality, completing a series of systems tests at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Related Articles


The Propulsive Small Expendable Deployer system – called ProSEDS – is a tether-based propulsion experiment that draws power from the space environment around Earth, allowing the transfer of energy from the Earth to the spacecraft.

Inexpensive and reusable, ProSEDS technology has the potential to turn orbiting, in-space tethers into "space tugboats" -- replacing heavy, costly, traditional chemical propulsion and enabling a variety of space-based missions, such as the fuel-free raising and lowering of satellite orbits.

The initial flight of ProSEDS, scheduled for early summer, will mark the first time a tether system is used for propulsion. To be launched from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., ProSEDS will fly aboard an Air Force Delta II rocket and demonstrate an electrodynamic tether's ability to generate significant thrust.

"We achieved an important milestone with our tests in November," said ProSEDS project manager Leslie Curtis of the Marshall Center's Space Transportation Directorate. "Using a vacuum chamber to represent the space environment, we successfully simulated the first 16 hours of the experiment's initial flight."

In orbit, ProSEDS will deploy from a Delta-II second stage a 3.1-mile-long (5 kilometers), ultra-thin bare-wire tether connected with a 6.2-mile-long (10 kilometers) non-conducting tether. The interaction of the bare-wire tether with the Earth's ionosphere will produce thrust, thus lowering the altitude of the stage.

Although the mission could last as long as three weeks, the first day is the most critical, because the primary objective of demonstrating thrust with the tether should be achieved during the experiment's first 24 hours.

During the mission profile tests last November, engineers from the Marshall Center, along with their partners in academia and industry, tested the experiment's multiple systems as if the flight were actually taking place.

"We took ProSEDS through every step of the mission's first 16 hours," Curtis said. "We operated its hardware, batteries, cables and software, activated and deactivated systems, and collected and transmitted data as we would during an actual flight."

During the tests, all subsystems functioned as designed, including the hollow cathode plasma contactor, a critical component that enables the tether system to complete its electrical circuit.

During the flight, the process of collecting energy will begin when the electromagnetic portion of the tether collects electrical current along the tether's length as it moves through the Earth's magnetic field. To keep the current flowing, the plasma contactor reconnects the electrons with the invisible, electrically charged plasma that surrounds the Earth, emitting the electrons back into space so it can complete its circuit.

"We were pleased to see the plasma contactor perform well throughout the test, even under conditions outside its expected operating range," said Curtis. "It demonstrated the robustness of its design and the performance range of the ProSEDS operating system." The contactor was designed and built by the Electric Propulsion Laboratory in Monument, Colo.

Additional testing of ProSEDS hardware leading to its launch will include thermal testing, tether deployment and final system verification with flight software.

NASA's industry team for the ProSEDS experiment includes the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Alpha Technologies of Huntsville, Ala., Electric Propulsion Laboratory of Monument Colo., the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., Tether Applications Inc. of Chula Vista, Calif., and Triton Systems Inc. in Chelmsford, Mass.

The ProSEDS experiment is managed by the Space Transportation Directorate at the Marshall Center.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. "Propellant-Free Space Propulsion Technology Marks Critical Milestone At NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020205080246.htm>.
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. (2002, February 5). Propellant-Free Space Propulsion Technology Marks Critical Milestone At NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020205080246.htm
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. "Propellant-Free Space Propulsion Technology Marks Critical Milestone At NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020205080246.htm (accessed April 20, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Monday, April 20, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Humanoid Robot Can Recognise and Interact With People

Humanoid Robot Can Recognise and Interact With People

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 20, 2015) An ultra-realistic humanoid robot called &apos;Han&apos; recognises and interprets people&apos;s facial expressions and can even hold simple conversations. Developers Hanson Robotics hope androids like Han could have uses in hospitality and health care industries where face-to-face communication is vital. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drones and Health Apps at Santiago's "Robotics Day"

Drones and Health Apps at Santiago's "Robotics Day"

AFP (Apr. 20, 2015) Latin American robotics experts gather in Santiago, Chile for "Robotics Day". Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Japan Humanoid Robot Receives Customers at Department Store

Japan Humanoid Robot Receives Customers at Department Store

AFP (Apr. 20, 2015) She can smile, she can sing and she can give you guidance at one of the most upscale department stores in Tokyo...a female-looking humanoid makes her debut as a receptionist Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pee-Power Toilet to Light Up Disaster Zones

Pee-Power Toilet to Light Up Disaster Zones

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 20, 2015) Students and staff are being asked to use a prototype urinal to &apos;donate&apos; urine to fuel microbial fuel cell (MFC) stacks that generate electricity to power lighting. The developers hope the pee-power technology will light toilet cubicles in refugee camps, where women are often at risk of assault in poorly lit sanitation areas. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins