Solar Electric Propulsion Module Concept for the BiFrost Architecture

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Rohrschneider, Reuben R.
Sakai, Tadashi
Steffes, Stephen R.
Grillmayer, Georg
St. Germain, Brad David
Olds, John R.
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This paper describes the design of a solar electric propulsion module for the Bifrost architecture. Bifrost consists of a magnetic levitation launch tube with the exit end elevated to 20 km. A 35,000 kg hybrid logistics module (HLM) is designed to attach to an array of propulsion modules that accommodate different missions. The solar electric propulsion (SEP) module is designed to circularize a payload in Geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) from a highly elliptic transfer orbit. A configuration consisting of a central spacecraft body propelling itself with electric thrusters and gathering solar power from two inflatable concentrating reflectors was chosen. Concentrating reflectors were chosen over thin film arrays due to the large mass savings. Details of the conceptual design process are presented. Disciplines include trajectory, power system, propulsion, and weights & sizing. A computational framework was used to wrap the disciplinary analysis to speed the design process, and optimization was performed to minimize the initial mass of the vehicle from within the design framework. The resulting vehicle has an initial mass in orbit of 40,780 kg. A demonstration model was then designed and constructed from the conceptual design. The manufacturing process for the inflatable reflector and the spacecraft body are described in detail. The demonstration model shows that an inflatable reflector is a feasible method of generating large amounts of power in space.
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