A Comparison of Propulsion Systems for Space Exploration

by Ryan D. Hoover, Eldorado High Sch, Albuquerque, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space IV


There are three promising propulsion systems that might be used for space missions: chemical, direct nuclear, and nuclear electric. Selecting the best system for a mission involves comparing the mission requirements with the propulsion system characteristics. Each mission has specific requirements for weight of payload, distance of travel, allowable time of travel, amount of money available to support the mission, and the amount of time available to develop and test the mission hardware. Each propulsion system has its own characteristics: the amount of weight it can propel, the amount it weighs, how fast it can propel, how long it can propel, how much it costs, and how much development time is needed before it is ready for use in a mission. For transferring payloads from LEO to GEO, the chemical propulsion system would seem to be the best because it is fast, well developed, and relatively inexpensive.

Subject Headings: Space exploration | Electrical systems | Comparative studies | Chemicals | Benefit cost ratios | Orbits | Payloads | Aircraft and spacecraft

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