The Advanced Propulsion for Exploration (APEx) Laboratory will facilitate research in the critical area of space propulsion to enable future exploration.
The APEx Laboratory will investigate low Technology Readiness Level (TRL 1 to 4) propulsion concepts for space access and in-space propulsion and will provide a technology push in an effort to identify key technologies that can be mission enabling. Advanced propulsion concepts will also require advancement in a variety of other areas including high power systems, high density plasma production, and advanced materials. Technologies that can impact exploration missions in the 15 to 50 year timeframe will be investigated through a combination of theoretical, computational, and experimental studies.
New propulsion technologies are being investigated that can dramatically reduce the cost for space access, reduce the travel time to remote planets, and increase the amount of payload that can be delivered to new outposts. Other propulsion technologies for a relatively new class of micro- and nano-satellites are also being developed, some using Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) fabrication. Continuous thrust ideas using momentum exchange between satellites are being formulated that have the capability of producing non-Keplerian orbit geometries to enable a variety of spacecraft missions.