Ad Astra Rocket Company Reaches Full Power Milestone for VASIMR VX-200 Engine

photograph of Ad Astra scientists using a laser alignment rig with the VX-200. Credit: Ad Astra Rocket Company

VASIMR® VX-200 Meets Full Power Efficiency Milestone

Ad Astra Press Release

Houston, TX –- Nov. 23, 2010 — Ad Astra Rocket Company’s VASIMR® VX-200 rocket prototype demonstrated its highest power efficiency and performance so far in tests, which ended Friday November 19 at the company’s Houston laboratory. Last week’s results met the efficiency milestone set by the company as it specifies the requirements for the VF-200 flight engine for the International Space Station. The VX-200 is the full power laboratory prototype that provides the technical basis for the design of the flight hardware.

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Ad Astra Rocket Company to Offer Stock to Investors

Rocket Company Launches Stock Offering
Tico Times

The Ad Astra Rocket Company, founded in 2005 by Costa Rican astronaut and physicist Franklin Chang, announced Wednesday that it will become a limited public corporation, offering stock to investors willing to pay a minimum of $25,000 on Costa Rica’s National Stock Exchange.

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Package Delivery and Trash Pickup, Courtesy of the VASIMR Rocket

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Costa Rican creates plasma rocket to pick up space trash
Global Post

Before launching speedier Mars missions, Chang Diaz proposes some practical uses of the rocket closer to Earth. It could, for example, act like a DHL in outer space, in which plasma-thrust crafts would transport packages, mainly fuel, to satellites or spaceships on the cheap — well, cheaper. Shipments that today run to the tune of a billion dollars, according to the CEO, would cost half a billion on Ad Astra spacecrafts.

He mentioned another use that flies closer to the heart of his eco-friendly homeland. These ships could start to clean up the clutter left by disused satellites.

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Ad Astra Reaches Milestone with VASIMR Engine

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AD ASTRA PRESS RELEASE
30 September 2009

Ad Astra Rocket Company’s VASIMR® VX-200 rocket prototype reached its highly- coveted 200 kW maximum power milestone at 11:59 am (CST) in tests conducted at the company’s Houston laboratory. The DC power trace actually exceeded the design requirement by 1 kW and exhibited the clear signature of a well established plateau at peak power (see graph).

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Could VASMIR Make Human Mars Missions Feasible?

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Route to Mars may come through Costa Rica
Tico Times

The route to Mars may go through Costa Rica. On Wednesday, Ronald Chang, executive director of Ad Astra Rocket Company Costa Rica, gave a presentation at the National Museum that detailed how Costa Rica has the opportunity to serve as a vital cog in the first-ever mission to Mars.

Chang is the brother of former NASA astronaut Dr. Franklin Chang, who in 24 years as an astronaut, logged over 1,600 hours in space during seven space missions, making him one of the most-traveled astronauts in history. Both of the Chang brothers were born in San José.

In his presentation, Ronald Chang explained that his brother created an ion plasma rocket, the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, known as VASIMR, which can reach Mars in 39 days. Using technology currently available, a rocket can travel to Mars in eight to nine months.

Read the full story.

Ion Engines Could Make Mars Trips Routine

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Ion engine could one day power 39-day trips to Mars
New Scientist

Several space missions have already used ion engines, including NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which is en route to the asteroids Vesta and CeresMovie Camera, and Japan’s spacecraft Hayabusa, which rendezvoused with the asteroid Itokawa in 2005.

But a new engine, called VASIMR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket), will have much more “oomph” than previous ones. That’s because it uses a radio frequency generator, similar to transmitters used to broadcast radio shows, to heat the charged particles, or plasma.

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VX-200 Demonstrates Superconducting First Stage at Full Power

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AD ASTRA PRESS RELEASE

Ad Astra Rocket Company has successfully demonstrated operation of its VX-200 plasma engine first stage at full power and under superconducting conditions in tests conducted today at the company’s Houston laboratory. This achievement is a key milestone in the engine’s development and the first time a superconducting plasma rocket has been operated at that power level.

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Chang Díaz Pioneers New Space Propulsion System

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Rockets For The Red Planet
IEEE Spectrum

From his corner office at Ad Astra Rocket headquarters near Houston, Franklin R. Chang Díaz hatches big plans. He’s tucked away behind a strip mall on a bland suburban street, but his mind is wandering the cosmos. He envisions multibillion-dollar mining operations extracting iron, cobalt, and platinum from asteroids for use in cities on the moon and Mars. He dreams of space infrastructures so evolved that astronauts freely roam the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. He sees parallel societies grown teeming and rich, and Earth gradually transformed into a grand nature preserve.

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VASIMR Rocket Undergoing Testing

Plasma engine is ready for final test on Earth
Nacion.com
31 May 2009

Translated from Spanish (Google Translate)

In Houston, Texas, laboratory of the Ad Astra Rocket Company, led by Costa Rican astronaut and physicist Franklin Chang-Diaz is preparing for an exciting week.

The high vacuum chamber of the laboratory, ten meters long and four meters in diameter, is inside the VX-200: VASIMR the prototype of the engine propulsion plasma Chang outlined three decades ago to make space travel for faster and more cheaply, and hence to explore far away places in the solar system.

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Franklin Chang Diaz Profile

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I found a story (in Spanish) on Franklin Chang Diaz, the former NASA astronaut who heads up Ad Astra Rocket Company. Below is an excerpt in English courtesy of Google Translate.

Why support Franklin Chang?
Elfinancierocr.com

I had the pleasure of meeting Franklin Chang in June 2006 with a handful of notes on his experiences at NASA with the physics of plasma.

His long career in the space race, after reaching the orbit of the earth seven times, had given him the vision to develop new ideas on the development of space propulsion, yea, a new era is developing in the exploration space.

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