NASA has selected development teams for an advanced ion propulsion system and ion optics. The space agency's Glenn Research Center is set to lead NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster programme, which will use xenon gas and electrical power to propel spacecraft.

Boeing Electron Dynamics Devices will develop the carbon-based ion optics - critical components of the high-power ion thrusters.

The programme will initially involve a one-year phase to design, build and test initial versions of ion thrusters, propellant feed systems and power processing units which convert solar array power into forms useful for the ion engines.

NASA may then exercise a second-phase option to complete hardware development and integrate components into a full-scale system under a programme with a potential budget of $27 million.

Source: Flight International