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  Ad Astra Rocket Company's VASIMR engine

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Author Topic:   Ad Astra Rocket Company's VASIMR engine
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 36525
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-23-2006 11:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
Agreement to Commercialize Advanced NASA Rocket Concept; Former Astronaut Franklin-Chang Diaz to Lead Effort

NASA has signed an agreement with Houston-based Ad Astra Rocket Co. that paves the way for commercialization of a promising advanced plasma rocket system that has evolved over the past 25 years.

The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) is a type of propulsion system that produces a plasma exhaust at temperatures similar to those in the interior of the sun. The system may generate rocket thrust with performance hundreds of times higher than that of present chemical rockets. The increased performance could mean dramatic reductions in fuel requirements. While conventional rocket nozzles would melt under the extreme temperatures, VASIMR uses magnetic force fields to control and direct the plasma exhaust jet.

Potential commercial applications for the technology could include the re- boost of large orbiting platforms, satellite delivery and repositioning, as well as cargo delivery to the Moon. The technology also may provide a capability for high-power plasma propulsion for future interplanetary human and robotic missions.

"This is a propulsion system that is vastly different from the conventional chemical rockets of today, with the potential for vastly better results," said Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz, a former astronaut who spearheaded the development of the technology while with NASA. "The promise this system holds could dramatically reduce the travel time for interplanetary missions, cutting trip times to Mars by one half or better."

The technology also may have applications on Earth in the microelectronics and environmental industries. High power plasma devices are being studied to process large amounts of radioactive nuclear waste and to destroy highly toxic chemical and biological waste. Development of superconducting magnets for VASIMR also could lead to applications in space radiation shielding, transportation, medicine and energy generation.

"The transfer of this innovative technology to the private sector will accelerate its development, benefiting everyone," said Helen Lane, JSC acting manager of technology transfer. "The future exploration of space depends on cooperative research between private industry and NASA to advance technology." NASA will collaborate with Ad Astra, continuing some funding of the project for the next two years, to ensure a smooth transition.

A NASA astronaut and scientist for 25 years and a veteran of a record seven Space Shuttle flights, Chang-Diaz retired from NASA in July 2005 to continue work with the development of the VASIMR engine with Ad Astra Rocket.

Chang-Diaz conceived VASIMR in 1979 while at The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass.

DavidH
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From: Huntsville, AL, USA
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 01-24-2006 08:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidH   Click Here to Email DavidH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's great to see that this technology may actually have a future.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 36525
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-10-2007 04:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On Dec. 10, Ad Astra Rocket Company signed its second Space Act Agreement with NASA. The new agreement is a successor to an earlier one entered into nearly two and a half years ago, and provides a framework for long-term collaboration between the parties in the development and in-space operational implementation of the VASIMR engine.

This new plasma-based space propulsion technology was initially studied by NASA and is now being developed privately by Ad Astra. The agreement recognizes the importance of the VASIMR engine may have in supporting NASA's space exploration programs, an provides the space agency with continued access to the latest advances in plasma technology being developed by Ad Astra.

The parties were represented at the agreement signing by Michael Coats, Director of Johnson Space Center and Franklin Chang-Diaz, Ad Astra's Chairman and CEO. The ceremony was held at Ad Astra's new Houston headquarters and laboratory facility.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 12-15-2008 01:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The following photographs, courtesy of Ad Astra, show the installation of the VX-200 prototype engine inside the company's large vacuum chamber.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-15-2008 01:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ad Astra Rocket Company photos

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 36525
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-15-2008 01:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ad Astra Rocket Company video release
This is a series of test firings of the VASIMR VX-200 plasma rocket prototype. The rocket's 1st stage (a Helicon plasma source) was fired at 14 kW using a solid state RF amplifier, and argon gas as the propellant. The video is slowed down to half speed.

The VX-200 is designed to use 30 kW for its first stage and 70 kW for its second stage (an ion cyclotron heating stage).

The VX-200 is the precursor to the VF-200, a flight demonstration unit that is intended to fly on the International Space Station (ISS).

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 12-15-2008 01:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ad Astra Rocket Company release
NASA and Ad Astra Rocket Company sign agreement for flight test of the VASIMR rocket engine aboard the International Space Station

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Ad Astra Rocket Company of Webster, Texas have entered into a Space Act Agreement that could lead to conducting a space flight test of the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine on the International Space Station (ISS). The VASIMR engine is a new plasma-based space propulsion technology, initially studied by NASA and currently under commercial development by Ad Astra. The agreement was fully executed on December 8, 2008. It was signed on behalf of NASA by its Associate Administrator for Space Operations, William H. Gerstenmaier and on behalf of Ad Astra Rocket Company by its President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Franklin R. Chang Diaz. It is the third agreement entered into by the parties since June, 2005 relating to the VASIMR technology development.

The agreement is structured in a series of "gates," designed to allow the parties to assess the requirements on an incremental basis while proceeding to flight. Upon the successful achievement of the milestones set forth in the agreement, NASA and Ad Astra envision that VASIMR will be launched to the ISS where the rocket can be tested, for the first time, in its intended environment: the vacuum of outer space.

The NASA Authorization Act of 2005, Section 507 (P.L. 109-155) designates the US portion of the ISS a National Laboratory. While smaller projects have already been initiated for installation at interior locations of the ISS, the Ad Astra project will serve as a "pathfinder" by demonstrating a new class of larger, more complex externally-installed science and technology payloads, encouraging others to pursue similar projects and facilitating their efforts with a model for implementation.

The primary technical objective of the project is to operate the VASIMR VF-200 engine at power levels up to 200 kW. Engine operation will be restricted to pulses of up to 10 minutes at this power level. Energy for these high-power operations will be provided by a battery system trickle-charged by the ISS power system. These tests will mark the first time that a high-power, steady-state electric thruster will be used as part of a manned spacecraft. Ad Astra is developing the VF-200 payload entirely with funds from private investors. The partnership described in this agreement represents a collaboration between NASA and a private entity never before attempted.

Ad Astra is excited to partner with NASA on the goals set forth in this innovative partnership which, when successfully accomplished, will dramatically demonstrate the use, versatility and value of the ISS as a national asset.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 12-18-2008 12:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA Administrator Hails Agreement with Ad Astra

NASA and Ad Astra Rocket Company of Webster, Texas, have signed a Space Act Agreement that could lead to the testing of a new plasma-based space propulsion technology on the International Space Station. The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine initially was studied by NASA and is being commercially developed by Ad Astra.

This is the first such agreement for a payload on the station’s exterior and represents an expansion of NASA’s plans to operate the U.S. portion of the space station as a national laboratory. This effort follows the success achieved by the agency last year in reaching multiple agreements to utilize internal station sites for this endeavor.

"Ad Astra's Space Act Agreement with NASA offers an example of just the kind of research and technology development that we should be doing on the International Space Station, can do there, and cannot easily do anywhere else," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said. "Dr. Chang-Diaz's VASIMR engine concept has long held great theoretical promise for future high-efficiency space propulsion. With this agreement, we are taking the first steps down the road to its practical realization. I am grateful to the teams on both sides who have worked to develop a plan that yields a near-term step forward for both Ad Astra and NASA on this exciting prospect."

NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Operations William Gerstenmaier and Ad Astra's President and Chief Executive Officer Franklin Chang Diaz signed the agreement on Dec. 8. The agreement is structured in a series of "gates," designed to allow the parties to assess milestones on an incremental basis while proceeding to flight. Upon the achievement of these milestones, NASA and Ad Astra envision that VASIMR will be launched to the station and be tested, for the first time, in the vacuum of space.

The VASIMR project will pave the way in demonstrating a new class of larger, more complex science and technology payloads to be installed on the station's exterior. Smaller projects already have been started for installation inside the station as part of the effort to use the U.S. portion of the station as a national laboratory. NASA hopes the agreement with Ad Astra will encourage other entities, governmental and commercial, to pursue similar projects and to facilitate the success of those projects by providing a model for implementation.

Chang-Diaz, a former astronaut and veteran of seven space shuttle flights is a plasma physicist. In 2001, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics awarded him the Wyld Propulsion Award for his 21 years of research on the VASIMR engine.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 03-08-2009 12:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ad Astra release
VASIMR VX-200 superconducting magnet delivered to Houston facility and passes all acceptance tests

The VX-200 low temperature superconducting magnet has been delivered to Ad Astra's Houston facility by its manufacturer, Scientific Magnetics Ltd. of Oxford, England and has successfully passed a battery of acceptance tests conducted by a combined team from Scientific Magnetics and Ad Astra. The superconductor is an essential component of the VASIMR(TM) engine and is responsible for generating the strong magnetic field required to fully heat and accelerate the plasma in the engine.

Above: VX-200 Superconducting magnet arrival and installation at Ad Astra's Houston facility.

Short for Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, VASIMR(TM) is a new high-power plasma-based space propulsion technology, initially studied by NASA and now being developed privately by Ad Astra. A VASIMR(TM) engine could maneuver payloads in space far more efficiently and with much less propellant than today's chemical rockets. Ultimately, VASIMR(TM) engines could also greatly shorten robotic and human transit times for missions to Mars and beyond.

The new magnet arrived at Ad Astra's Houston facility on February 10 and was unpacked by Scientific Magnetics personnel with assistance of the Ad Astra technical team. The system subsequently underwent two complete one-week thermal and magnetic cycles from room temperature to cryogenic conditions inside its own vacuum jacket. At its nominal operating temperature of 5 oK (-268 oC), the magnet was energized to its full field capability of 2 tesla (maximum on axis). The field was measured and compared with predicted values. The difference between measurement and prediction was found to be well within acceptable margins (less than 0.3%).

While these tests were ongoing, the VX-200i, an "interim" version of the VX-200 (hence the appended "i" in VX-200i), operating with a less powerful water-cooled magnet continued as scheduled, exercising the new control algorithms enabling the combined operation of its first and second plasma stages. The VX-200i was developed in-house by Ad Astra to minimize potential impacts to the VX-200 schedule brought about by the delayed delivery of the superconducting module by Scientific Magnetics. The in-house development of an interim magnet with the same structural "footprint" as the superconductor, allowed testing of other VX-200 subsystems to proceed.

Above: VX-200 Superconducting magnet is installed in test frame and undergoes magnetic field measurements.

Based upon the superconductor test results, the new magnet has been accepted by Ad Astra and is now ready to replace the interim magnet and allow the VX-200 to operate at its design capability. Integration of the new magnet is scheduled to begin in mid-March following completion of the last few programmed tests on the VX-200i.

The successful achievement of this milestone is the last step in the full integration of the VASIMR(TM) VX-200 prototype and clears the way for full power tests to proceed through mid- May. The completion of these tests will yield the required data set for the design of the VF-200 flight engine.

SpaceAholic
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Posts: 3846
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-23-2017 10:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Ars Technica:
As part of a program to develop the next generation of in-space propulsion systems, NASA awarded Chang-Díaz's company, Ad Astra, a three-year, $9 million contract in 2015. This unlocked an opportunity long awaited — a chance to prove the doubters wrong. Naturally, it won't be easy. Ad Astra must fire its plasma rocket for 100 hours, at a power level of 100 kilowatts, next year.

This February, the company has worked about halfway through that contract, and Ars has been keeping tabs on progress in the lab. So far, the immigrant from Costa Rica seems to be holding up his end of the bargain. NASA gave the company a sterling review after the first year of the agreement. Still, there is a ways to go. During a visit this month, the VASIMR engine fired at 100kW for 10 seconds and 50kW for one minute.

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