Aethera Technologies, CSA Sign $1.5 Million R&D Contract Boosting Ad Astra’s VASIMR Development

WEBSTER, Texas USA and Halifax, NS, Canada (Aethera Technologies/Ad Astra Rocket Company PR) – A $1.5 million funding agreement has been signed between Aethera Technologies Limited of Halifax, NS and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for the development of advanced high-power radiofrequency (RF) power processing units for Ad Astra’s VASIMR® engine.

The agreement, announced by the CSA on May 25, 2018, adds a major boost to Aethera’s RF power processing unit (RF-PPU) development program. The critical and innovative technology outcomes from this program supports the ongoing partnership between Ad Astra and Aethera to develop advanced, high-power, in-space electric propulsion.

“The CSA’s funding provides a measure of Canada’s long-term view of the importance of high power electric propulsion in humanity’s gradual evolution beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) and the unique and ongoing contribution of that nation’s technology base to the exploration of space” said Dr. Franklin R. Chang Díaz, NASA Astronaut, Founder, COB and CEO of Ad-Astra Rocket Company. “With Canada’s involvement in the project, the VASIMR® engine takes on a stronger international flavor.”

A critical element of the VASIMR® engine, the RF- PPUs are being supplied by Aethera to support the upcoming 100-hour continuous high-power firing test of the VASIMR® VX-200SSTM engine. The test is scheduled for the 4th quarter of 2018 under NASA’s NextSTEP partnership with Ad Astra. At the completion of the 100-hr test, all systems of the VASIMR® engine will be at or above Technology Readiness Level (TRL) – 5, the step just prior to a space flight test.

“We are focused on developing state of the art RF-PPUs with extremely high energy conversion efficiencies and mass density which will enhance Ad Astra’s VX-200SS VASIMR® engine” stated Tim Hardy, CTO at Aethera. “The team is extremely excited to be working on this project,” he added.

The most advanced VASIMR® engine is the VX-200SS prototype, approaching technology readiness level 5 and currently undergoing testing at Ad Astra’s Texas facility near Houston. In late 2017 the company successfully accumulated 100 hours of non-continuous high-power tests and is now upgrading the rocket for continuous firing operations.

Despite a 1-month disruption in operations due to Hurricane Harvey, the company has completed all NASA contract milestones to date and remains on budget for the completion of the program. The final goal is to demonstrate a 100-hour continuous firing of the VX-200SS at a power level of 100 kW. The company marches towards this goal on schedule, along a path of interim milestones focusing on the rocket’s new active thermal management system, designed to enable it to operate at full power indefinitely.

“Ad Astra’s VASIMR® technology has the potential to open dramatic new opportunities in the commercialization of space and we are extremely pleased to be a partner with Ad-Astra and receive support from the CSA in developing this world class technology in Nova Scotia” expressed Aethera’s President, Kirk Zwicker.

About the Technology

Short for Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, VASIMR® works with plasma, an electrically charged gas that can be heated to extreme temperatures and controlled and guided by strong magnetic fields, which also provide insulation. Plasma rockets, such as VASIMR®, have an extremely low fuel consumption and much higher performance as compared with conventional chemical propulsion or other electric rockets. They will provide a major economic and operational advantage in space commerce, including satellite deployment, re-boost services, refurbishment and end-of-life disposal. In the longer term, with an appropriate nuclear-electric power source, VASIMR® would provide much faster and safer human and robotic transportation in deep-space where solar power is insufficient.

About Ad-Astra

A US Delaware corporation established in 2005, Ad Astra Rocket Company is the developer of the VASIMR® engine, an advanced plasma propulsion system for the emerging in-space transportation market. Ad Astra also owns and operates supporting R&D subsidiaries in the US and Costa Rica. The company also develops earthbound high technology applications in renewable energy and hydrogen-based fuel-cell electric transportation, as well as advanced manufacturing and applied physics. Ad Astra has its main laboratory and corporate headquarters at 141 W. Bay Area Boulevard in Webster, Texas, USA, about three miles from the NASA Johnson Space Center.

About Aethera

Located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Aethera Technologies Limited develops innovative technology and provides related services for its clients with a focus in the fields of radio frequency power, communications and dielectric heating. Aethera is committed to transforming ideas into a competitive advantage for our clients.

About CSA’s Space Technology Development Program

The CSA’s Space Technology Development Program (STDP) supports innovation for the growth of the Canadian space industry and to reduce technological unknowns. Contracts are issued to Canadian organizations for the development of technologies to support future needs of the Canadian Space Program, while non-repayable contributions are awarded to Canadian organizations to support the development of innovative technologies with strong commercial potential.

  • Michael Halpern

    While VASIMR is a good concept, it is too power hungry, and is married to a space based reactor that doesn’t exist, and even if they did, they would be expensive, defeating the economic argument. Didn’t know Ad Astra worked with fool cell transportation too..

  • Gary Church

    Only one practical form of nuclear space propulsion. Bombs. This has been clear for a long time.

  • Michael Halpern

    Your idea of “practical” is quite unusual, besides this isn’t nuclear propulsion, this is electric propulsion with the proposal for a nuclear power supply for outer solar system use

  • Robert G. Oler

    I would like to see a practical demo of this

  • P.K. Sink
  • P.K. Sink

    Well…NASA is still giving them money. And the Canadian Space Agency is giving them money. Don’t pull that plug quite yet. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fb628560de036ca022f6ef7985add9e5fecdc62cde42e0db911c1a8ddb1cfaa3.jpg

  • Michael Halpern

    Big solar array then.

  • Gary Church
  • Michael Vaicaitis

    A solar array for 200kw is perfectly feasible, in terms of both mass, and cost. The Mars transport concept calls for 200MW, and it’s once you’re into the multi megawatts that a nuclear option may become a plausible, and perhaps preferable, alternative. In cis-lunar a solar array is quite practical, but in travelling from Earth out to Mars solar incidence drops significantly. The solar array would have to be sized to Mars distance from the sun, then closer to Earth you’d be carrying a LOT of redundant power generating mass. Since we don’t yet have the tech of in-space nuclear electric generation it is not yet clear where the cost, mass and complexity calculation puts the cutoff between nuclear being preferable to solar. It might be 50MW or 500MW or 5000MW, but I guess we won’t know precisely for 50-100 years.

  • Michael Halpern

    Ost and besides the most practical is nuke thermal rocket, doesn’t need the heavy blast shield as it just passes reaction mass over a nuclear core to heat it up and vents that mass out the back end for thrust, could even use that same core for power and you don’t need necessarily weapons grade fuel

  • Gary Church

    NTR’s are a dead end. It is hard enough keeping a chemical rocket from melting. It takes a reaction a million times more powerful and gives an Isp only twice that of chemicals. Pathetic. Nuclear Pulse Isp’s are measured in the tens of thousands. You don’t know what you are talking about.

  • Michael Halpern

    Actually much higher isp than SEP, but they are a dead end as are all nuke propulsion systems because of politics

  • Michael Halpern

    Plus there are alternative potential power sources to nukes for outer solar system, and high power anywhere else, beamed power for example.

  • 76 er

    Martin Halliwell, the CTO of SES said that the chief engineer of a launch provider told him that the re-flight of boosters was impossible. SpaceX has since invalidated that “impossible” claim. The chief engineer is indisputably intelligent, but mistaken in terms of engineering clarity. So, in this light, be careful of how you use the word “clear”.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Personally, I don’t believe that beamed power is physically feasible, even for a single spacecraft. It will certainly be phenomenally inefficient. And by the time we can build gigawatt class lasers in space there will be hundreds or even thousands of spacecraft buzzing around the solar system.
    “…there are alternative potential power sources to nukes…”
    Solar, fission, chemical, may be fusion, what else could generate hundreds of megawatts for spacecraft at Mars or beyond?

  • Michael Halpern

    Not lasers no microwave, less conversion loss, some dispersal loss but less significant

  • Gary Church

    If you think politics do not change then your brain is a dead end. You seem to have latched on to me as someone to endlessly argue with. I will answer if you have anything intelligent to say but if you keep doing this I will ignore you.

  • Gary Church

    Actually, SpaceX has not “invalidated” that. Unless they prove it costs less to refurbish inspect and reuse the used boosters than it does to drop them in the ocean then the criticism is valid. Like so much of SpaceX, much is hype and besides launching some satellites like-dozens of other concerns have- they have not done anything truly remarkable. The space shuttle was also “reusable.”

  • Michael Halpern

    They change but key politicians in current power have reason to act against SpaceX

  • Michael Halpern

    They change but putting nukes in space will take a long time to change

  • Gary Church

    Goodbye.

  • Michael Halpern

    Can you find me another medium lift rocket that costs $50m?

  • Gary Church

    Goodbye! Take a hint.

  • Michael Halpern

    I have its that you have run out of arguments.

  • redneck

    Don’t you have to have an argument before you can run out of them?

  • Michael Halpern

    True, though earlier he had an argument about the risk of the Hydrazine from the self contained Super Dracos mounted on the outside of the pressure vessel with no pipes leading inside the pressure vessel somehow getting into it and affecting the crew,

  • Gary Church

    Stop lying. I wrote the risk was a ton and a half of hypergolics stored in that capsule and the SpaceX fans immediately began claiming it was not really in the capsule because it was “outside the pressure vessel” and other such nonsense. Mr. redneck, this guy is trying to hound me off this site because I am critical of SpaceX. He responds to all my comments with inane harassment replies- and says he is just “correcting me.” Disgusting.

  • Michael Halpern

    You would have to rupture both the pressure vessel and the thrust tank in order for it to get into the capsule, the source of the rupture would have to come from inside the pressure vessel

  • Gary Church

    You are babbling this garbage to harass me and drive me away. It is so obvious. You are doing what so many SpaceX fans do: proving they are the worst bunch of creeps on the internet.

  • Michael Halpern

    It is simple logic

  • Gary Church

    It is simply transparent what you are doing. Cyberbullying, cyberstalking, being the typical SpaceX fanatic. Crystal clear.

  • Michael Halpern

    We happen to be on the same forum, you say something i disagree with, i give reasons why and you reject it as ridiculous and resort to name calling.

  • Gary Church

    Actually, you are the one dogging my every comment with replies that have very little content or are obviously designed to irritate. Make your own comments. Cut and paste what you are so concerned about but stop harassing me. Because you will not do this you are giving your game away- which is to drive me off this forum because YOU disagree with me.

  • Michael Halpern

    No i am not, there are several i didn’t comment on, i am sure but you don’t get to play victim when you can’t substantiate your argument or admit you are wrong

  • MzUnGu

    Docking that thing would be interesting. LOL

    How the plume so close to the arrays, and how it degrade the big array would be too…