Space propulsion and systems firm Busek Co. of Natick, Mass., said April 29 that it won three NASA Small Business Innovations Research (SBIR) Phase 1 awards worth up to $5.1 million to work on high-power solar electric propulsion systems, a technology NASA says its needs for its proposed mission to retrieve an asteroid and relocate it near the Moon.

Busek said in a press release announcing its three so-called Select SBIR awards that it has previous and ongoing research and development supporting NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Much of this work, Busek said, is focused on advancing the technology readiness and lifetime of 10-20 kilowatt-class Hall effect thrusters and subsystems, a type of solar electric propulsion.

“Busek is proud to continue our support of NASA’s initiatives. These awards position Busek to supply NASA with Hall thruster technology for a near term high power SEP Technology Demonstration Mission and opens the door to missions such as asteroid retrieval and mining,” Busek President Vlad Hruby said in a statement. Ultimately, multiple high-power thrusters could be clustered together for larger vehicles in the 30-100 kilowatt power range, according to Hruby. 

In addition to the three Select awards, Busek also won three other SBIR awards focused on green propulsion, small satellites and highly efficient cathodes.