NASA Seeks Market Research on Plasma Diagnostics for Gateway

image of a hall thruster and plume

To support the development of the power and propulsion element for NASA’s Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland are studying a plasma diagnostic package (PDP), which will collect flight data related to the plasma environment produced by high-power solar electric propulsion (SEP) during operation.

NASA recently released a request for information to gather market research regarding PDP development and potential future collaboration.

“Data gathered from the package will significantly reduce the risks associated with the advancement of SEP technologies to higher power levels and greater propellant loads,” said Wensheng Huang, PDP lead diagnostics engineer at NASA Glenn. “The system being researched will also assess the effects of the plasma produced by the ion propulsion system on the spacecraft’s solar arrays, provide greater understanding of interaction of energetic ions and vehicle surfaces, and provide characteristics and health during 10,000 hours of in-space thruster operation.”

The request addresses the development of the electronics necessary to drive a variety of sensors to measure ion and electron kinetic energies, ion and electron fluxes, rates of surface erosion and deposition, and impact of thruster plume on the engineered surfaces. This request is strictly for information gathering purposes and does not constitute a contract solicitation.

This RFI is open to all U.S-based commercial entities and responses are requested no later than March 30, 2018.

The PDP will fly on the power and propulsion element and perform critical measurements of the ion plumes. This element of the gateway will demonstrate a high-power solar electric propulsion system and provide power, command and data services to the rest of the platform. It also will house critical deep space infrastructure for communications to and from Earth, space-to-space communication, and support spacewalks. The resulting in-space demonstration of this high-power solar electric propulsion system is intended to leverage commercially-available capabilities and to support future applications for both NASA and commercial industry.

The development and demonstration of high-power SEP technologies required to extend human presence beyond Earth’s orbit is a high priority for NASA’s Space Technology and Human Explorations and Operations Mission Directorates.


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