Aerojet Qualifies High Power Electric Propulsion System

January 31, 2006 by Jeff Shepard

Aerojet, a GenCorp Inc. company, announces the successful qualification test of its 4.5 kW Hall Thruster electric propulsion system — the highest power flight-qualified Hall propulsion system in the world — for use on large, high-power communications satellites.

The electric propulsion system, a popular choice for improving spacecraft efficiency in orbit, is now certified for flight for a variety of commercial and government programs. Aerojet is under contract to Lockheed Martin to provide the first two shipsets of the new thruster system for the next generation Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) system, an Air Force program.

Aerojet qualified the Hall System during a 5,600-hour life test at its Redmond, Wash., electric propulsion test facility. The Hall Thruster is an electric propulsion system that provides operational lifetime somewhat similar to a light bulb — measured in thousands of hours — while conventional chemical thruster performance is measured in minutes. By demonstrating such significant gains in performance and operational life, Aerojet will ensure dramatic cost savings for spacecraft, company officials said. Those savings could exceed 2,000 pounds of fuel — greatly improving launch vehicle flexibility and spacecraft on-orbit capability.

"The successful qualification of the Aerojet Hall Thruster means the highest-powered, most efficient Hall propulsion system is now available in the United States and is ready for flight," said Robert Peha, vice president and general manager of Aerojet Redmond operations.