NASA Glenn Research Center has awarded its Large Business Prime Contractor of the Year award to Aerojet Rocketdyne for work on the Next Evolutionary Xenon Thruster-Commercial, or NEXT-C.
The award, announced Feb. 13, follows by almost two years the last major Glenn Research Center contract won by Aerojet. That was in April 2015, when the El Segundo, Calif.-based rocket-engine company was awarded an $18 million contract to complete development of the NEXT-C gridded ion thruster system. NEXT-C, tagged for completion by 2019, is designed to provide increased speed and fuel efficiency for government and commercial space craft during deep-space missions.
“This is an incredible honor,” Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake said. “Without question, this high-performance technology will change the future of planetary and commercial space missions. It has allowed us to build on our extensive development and flight experience with arcjet, Hall and ion thruster systems, and we look forward to the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.”
Aerojet Rocketdyne also is charged with completing development of the system’s power-processing units and with delivering two complete flight systems to NASA. The PPUs convert electrical power generated by solar arrays into power driving thruster components.
As part of the work on the PPU, Aerojet Rocketdyne is working with ZIN Technologies of Cleveland to develop key elements of the electronics.
Named for the late astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn, Glenn Research Center was founded in Cleveland in 1941. The facility is dedicated to aeronautical research and the advancement of spaceflight technology.
“Aerojet Rocketdyne has a long history with NASA Glenn Research Center in the development of advanced electric propulsion and power systems, and continues to build upon its core expertise in this field,” the NASA facility said in announcing the honor. “With this program, NEXT-C, as well as other recent NASA (awards), Aerojet Rocketdyne continues to solidify its leadership role in the development of Electric Propulsion systems for NASA science missions.”
A publicly traded company (NYSE: AJRD) Aerojet maintains its primary engineering center for space and defense propulsion systems in Rancho Cordova, Calif. It also has several other manufacturing and engineering facilities at other locations throughout the U.S.
Aerojet is performing its NEXT-C work at facilities in Los Angeles and Redmond, Wash.