A Materials Science Perspective on Space Propulsion Technology

Space satellite with artistic rendering of directed energy beam
Source: NASA

POSTED:  January 19, 2024

BY: Doyle T. Motes III

Future conflicts are very likely to have a significant space-based component. There is a significant number of different types of satellites and spacecraft within the Earth/moon system, which are civilian, scientific, or military in origin. One of the key pieces of technology constantly being pushed for advancement is propulsion. Within the various types of engines and propulsion mechanisms are the materials behind them, both those being directly involved and those enabling the technology to function as required. If the United States is to continue its dominance in space, then research and development into the continued production of advanced materials and concepts for space propulsion must continue and be accelerated. This state-of-the-art report examines the available materials and concepts required and needed for a wide range of existing and near-term space propulsion systems to continue to enable space dominance by the United States. Many different technologies likely to see use in the near to midterm and the available materials to enable these are also discussed.

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