Deep Space Engine (DSE)

PHoto of Development work horse hardware in vacuum test.

Development work horse hardware in vacuum test. Credits: NASA

The Deep Space Engine 100 lbf thruster is a compact, lightweight, low cost chemical propulsion system. This system can operate at very low temperatures that enable extreme environments and long duration storage capability. The DSE Thruster Qualification project’s goal is to qualify the engine for space flight. The project aims to perform qualification tests that represent the mission duty cycles of both a potential future Technology Demonstration Mission (TDM) on the Astrobotic Technology Peregrine Lunar Lander and the NASA Resource Prospector Lander.

The project will complete an initial work horse risk reduction development hot-fire test of the conceptual thruster. If the risk reduction testing is successful, a formal Flight Unit Qualification Process will be pursued for the DSE thruster. Qualification is intended to verify design requirements, robustness and workmanship, and qualify the thrusters to a technology readiness level of 6 at the end of testing, meaning the thruster is ready to undergo a system/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment, on ground or in space.

Led out of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the project will begin with component acquisition for thruster build up, preparing for instrumentation, and then installation in the test facility. Risk Reduction testing will be performed late summer 2017 with a go/no-go decision for the technology expected subsequently. If the decision is made to pursue the technology, design verification testing is targeted for completion in spring 2018 with qualification testing in the summer of 2018.

Principal Technologist Project Manager
Ron Litchford ( Gregory L. Barnett (