Last week, the agency published a pair of open calls for the development of two next-gen propulsion solutions that will be vital for missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
Nuclear electric propulsion solutions
This kind of solution’s main advantage over chemical is its efficiency. When compared to solar, it has larger power outputs and is able to operate without the need for direct exposure to sunlight. This makes it an ideal solution for transporting heavy cargo with long time constraints for exploration beyond Mars orbit. The technology could also be used to power future habitats on the Moon and Mars.
The project, which is called Rocketroll, is part of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme, which was launched in 2003.
The main objectives of this initial activity are to collect preliminary feasibility assessments, to perform first safety and security analyses, to identify key technologies, and to search for potential economic and industrial showstoppers.
High-efficiency, ultra-lightweight solar cells
The project calls for the design of a highly efficient ultra-lightweight solar cell that does not show any deficiencies when operating in low intensity, low temperature (LILT) conditions as they are applicable at Saturn or even beyond at Uranus and Neptune.
The project calls for the identification of workable solar cell architecture, the manufacture of initial prototypes, testing and reiteration if needed, and the preparation of a development roadmap.