Aerojet and NEC Corporation will explore the feasibility of jointly supplying low power ion propulsion systems for US and Japanese aerospace markets.

The ion propulsion systems could be used in geosynchronous satellites and for deep space missions by offering higher fuel efficiencies than chemical propulsion systems.

A microwave ion engine has been developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and NEC that uses microwaves for ion generation, enabling high mission reliability. The system is currently in use on JAXA’s HAYABUSA asteroid rendezvous and study mission, where its reliability has been proven with more than 30,000 hours of in-space operation.

NEC Aerospace and Defence Operations Unit senior general manager Kunio Kondo said that collaborating with Aerojet will help NEC to expand its low power microwave ion engine business in the US market.

Aerojet Redmond operations general manager Roger Myers said the low power microwave ion engine from NEC provides an excellent complement to Aerojet’s broad electric propulsion product offerings.

NEC, a provider of internet, broadband network and enterprise business solutions, has been a part of Japan’s space exploration programme since 1970.

Aerojet, a GenCorp company, supplies satellite propulsion systems in the US.