In May 1995 it was announced that Aerojet had received a NASA contract to develop and test a 600kWe Hall thruster electric propulsion system designed for future interplanetary manned spacecraft. The $32.4 million contract would integrate four NASA-designed 150kWe Hall thrusters with four power processors, a xenon propellant feed system and a thermal management subsystem. Two fifteen-month project phases would be completed in a full-power test by the fall of 2006. Subcontractors and associates with Aerojet on the project included Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space, NASA Glenn Research Center, and Colorado Power Electronics.
Hall thrusters operate at over 50% thrust efficiency, provide an optimal range of specific impulse from 1200-1800 seconds, and thrust to power ratios of 50-70 mN/kW. A Hall thruster contains an annular cavity where a plasma is created by passing current between the positive polarity electrode and an externally located cathode. Xenon is used as the plasma gas because of its high molecular weight and low ionization potential.
Chambers: 4. Electrical Input Power: 600.00 kW.
Status: In Development, 2005-2006.
Thrust: 30 N (6 lbf).
Specific impulse: 1,800 s.