Research into space propulsion by five firms will be supported by Nasa at its Glenn Research Centre.

Aerojet, ATK Mission Systems, Northrop Grumman, Orbital Technologies and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne will each receive $50m for indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity five-year contracts.

Propulsion system design and studies into fuel types such as non-toxic chemicals, hypergolic, electronic and rockets will be included in the research.

The firms will deal with alternate propellants, thruster performance, novel concepts, thermal control, cryogenics, propellant and combustion product properties, chemistry, fluid dynamics and advanced concept fabrication in the projects.

The work will enable the development of advanced space propulsion technologies to support missions with reduced cost, and higher performance, reliability and safety.