NASA Solicitation: Electric Propulsion for the In-space Propulsion Technology Project

Synopsis - Apr 04, 2012

General Information

Solicitation Number: NNC12ZMX023L
Posted Date: Apr 04, 2012
FedBizOpps Posted Date: Apr 04, 2012
Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action: No
Original Response Date: May 23, 2012
Current Response Date: May 23, 2012
Classification Code: A -- Research and Development
NAICS Code: 541712

Contracting Office Address

NASA/Glenn Research Center, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, OH 44135


This notice is issued by the NASA Glenn Research Center to post a Request for Information (RFI) via the internet, and solicit responses from interested parties. This document is for information and planning purposes and to allow industry the opportunity to verify reasonableness and feasibility of the requirement, as well as promote competition. When responding, please reference the RFI Number.

The objective of this project is to develop an integrated electric propulsion system to TRL 6 that demonstrates the combination of thrust, specific impulse, and efficiency required for human exploration architectures and a possible technology demonstration mission to begin as early as 2018. The system shall include the thruster, power-processing unit (PPU), propellant feed system, and digital control interface unit (which may be incorporated into the PPU). The proposed system shall offer advantages at a system level over state-of-the-art flight systems, specifically focused on higher power and higher efficiency. NASA is particularly interested in system development approaches that leverage prior technology investments and heritage solutions as means of reducing development time, cost and risks. To better understand these factors any cost, schedule, or technology risks to providing the requested system should be clearly identified.

The project must include sufficient testing to show compliance with the requested system specifications as listed below. The relevant environment as defined for the TRL 6 assessment may include those encountered anywhere from low Earth orbit (LEO) all the way to heliocentric space. Since candidate missions may include spiraling out through the high radiation environment of the Van Allen belts radiation tolerance is also requested. At a minimum a TRL 6 assessment shall include component environmental tests showing the required functionality and environmental compatibility and an integrated propulsion system functional test in a suitable space simulation chamber.

The top-level specifications for the requested system are: Electrical characteristics:

* System input power in excess of 10kW (as measured at the PPU input) with a >= 12kW goal.

* PPU compatible with a primary power input at 170VDC +/- 10% and a secondary power input (if needed) at 28VDC +/- 15%.

* The PPU efficiency in the identified input voltage range above and reducing PPU complexity/cost are the primary parameters of interest.

* Additional flexibility on the PPU input voltage is recognized as beneficial and any options available that could meet the goals without significant cost and schedule impacts should be discussed

* Conducted and radiated emissions compatible with MIL-STD-461E

Performance & lifetime characteristics:

* The system should be capable of providing thrust at a specific impulse of approximately 2000 seconds with a total system efficiency of >=0.60 at full power.

* System throttle-ability is recognized as beneficial below the full-power operating point and should be discussed in regards to capability and performance at lower power levels and higher specific impulses.

* The system should be capable of full power continuous operation for >= 10,000 hours.

* The system should be capable of a minimum of 5,000 on/off cycles.

Thermal characteristics: * The thruster should be able to operate at steady state under full power with an adiabatic thermal mounting interface.

* The PPU should be capable of operating over its entire operating range of inputs and outputs in all anticipated space environments while mounted to a temperature controlled base plate anywhere between -20*C to 50*C.

Telemetry and control:

* The system should be compatible with a MIL-STD-1553 data bus control interface.

* The system should provide sufficient telemetry outputs to permit health and status monitoring.

Mechanical characteristics:

* The system should be compatible with the following launch, ascent, and on-orbit environments:

* Static and dynamic loads

* Thermal environments

* EMI/EMC environments

* Vibration environments (sine and random vibration)

* Vibroacoustic environments (acoustic induced vibration environments)

* Shock environments (pyrotechnic and mechanically induced shock)

Definition of NASA Technology Readiness Level TRL 6 Definition: System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment. Hardware Description: A high-fidelity system/component prototype that adequately addresses all critical scaling issues is built and operated in a relevant environment to demonstrate operations under critical environmental conditions. Exit Criteria: Documented test performance demonstrating agreement with analytical predictions.


The information obtained may be used by NASA for planning and acquisition strategy development. NASA may use the information obtained as a result of this RFI on a non-attribution basis. No information or questions received will be posted to any website or public access location. NASA does not plan to respond to the individual responses, but will provide an update to development and acquisition plans.

The Government does not intend to award a contract on the basis of this RFI or to otherwise pay for the information solicited. As stipulated in FAR 15.201(e), responses to this notice are not considered offers, shall not be used as a proposal, and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. Inputs shall be compliant with all legal and regulatory requirements concerning limitations on export controlled items. To the full extent that it is protected pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and other laws and regulations, information identified by a respondent as "Proprietary or Confidential" will be kept confidential.


Responses must be submitted electronically to the NSPIRES ( ) web site. All respondents are required to register with NSPIRES first, and are urged to access this site well in advance of the due date to familiarize themselves with its structure and enter the requested identifier information. This data site is secure and all information entered is strictly for NASA use only.

The requirements of this RFI shall be addressed in written format, and the document shall be uploaded no later than 5:00 PM EDT on May 23, 2012.

NSPIRES accepts fully electronic RFI responses through a combination of data-based information (the electronic Cover Page) and an uploaded PDF file (the attachment) that contains the body of the response.

To initiate an RFI Response: * Log in using your NSPIRES user name and password. * Access Proposals in the NSPIRES Options Page * Click on the "Create NOI" button in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Select the "Electric Propulsion for the In-Space Propulsion Technology Project Request for Information" (NNC12ZMX023L). * Follow the step-by-step instructions provided in NSPIRES to complete your Cover Page.

The attachment must be uploaded as a single .PDF file and shall be no more than 15 pages (8.5" x 11", using not smaller than 12 point Arial font) in length. No additional documents should be uploaded. To ensure proper transmission, the size of the .PDF file should not exceed 10 MB in size.

The following information should be included in the attachment:

1.Description of the integrated system, components and demonstration approach, along with their state of readiness and estimated cost to attain TRL 6 by March 31, 2015. 2.Cost estimate should detail non-recurring engineering costs such as hardware design and fabrication, subsystem and integration testing, and documentation costs as well as recurring flight unit costs. 3.Schedule estimate should be detailed and breakout component development, component fabrication, testing, integration, and design updates. 4.The throttle-ability of the system and range of PPU input voltage variation should be detailed including any addition complexity, risk, performance, cost, or schedule penalties for the additional capability beyond the target performance specified in the top-level system specifications. 5.Description of trades performed to guide the hardware development strategy. 6.Description of the key technology risks and requirements for advanced technology to attain TRL 6 by March 31, 2015. 7.Statement of offeror's capabilities to provide the proposed demonstration, technology, system, and components. 8.Proposed approach for government involvement in testing and/or use of government facilities should be provided. 9.The above information are NASA goals, however NASA seeks contractor inputs on the most effective solution which may be different from the proposed target dates. 10.Description of alternative electric propulsion system components or approachs that the contractor feels would be of interest to the NASA mission described above.

Electronic submission of the RFI responses through NSPIRES will be open between April 4, 2012 and May 23, 2012.

Requests for assistance in accessing and/or using the NSPIRES website should be submitted by E-mail to or by telephone to (202) 479-9376 Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM Eastern Time.

No solicitation exists; therefore, do not request a copy of the solicitation. If a solicitation is released it will be synopsized in FedBizOpps and on the NASA Acquisition Internet Service.

All questions and/or comments shall be directed to Ernest Mensurati via electronic mail only. Questions can be submitted through 5:00pm EDT Wednesday April 18. Answers will be posted to NSPIRES by Friday April 27.

This presolicitation synopsis is not to be construed as a commitment by the Government, nor will the Government pay for the information submitted in response. Respondents will not be notified of the results.

NASA Clause 1852.215-84, Ombudsman, is applicable. The Center Ombudsman for this acquisition can be found at .

The solicitation and any documents related to this procurement will be available over the Internet. These documents will reside on a World Wide Web (WWW) server, which may be accessed using a WWW browser application. The Internet site, or URL, for the NASA/GRC Business Opportunities home page is It is the offeror's responsibility to monitor the Internet cite for the release of the solicitation and amendments (if any). Potential offerors will be responsible for downloading their own copy of the solicitation and amendments, if any.

Point of Contact

Name: Timothy D Smith
Title: Engineer/Project Manager
Phone: 216-977-7546
Fax: 216-433-8000

Name: Ernest C. Mensurati
Title: Contracting Officer
Phone: 216-433-2727
Fax: 216-433-2480

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