VASIMR VX-200SS Plasma Rocket Completes Record 88-hour High-power Endurance Test

VX200 engine. (Credit: Ad Astra Rocket Company)

WEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra Rocket Co. PR) — Ad  Astra Rocket Company’s VASIMR® VX-200SS  Plasma Rocket has completed 88 hours of  continuous operation at 80 kW at the company’s  Texas laboratory near Houston. In doing so, the  company establishes a new high-power world endurance record in electric propulsion. The test  also demonstrates the maturity of the VASIMR® engine technology as a competitive option for  high-power in-space electric propulsion with  either solar or nuclear electric power. Electric  rockets operating above 50 kW/thruster are  considered “high-power.” 


LeoLabs Announces Costa Rica Space Radar “Fully Operational”

Costa Rica radar (Credit: LeoLabs)

LeoLabs achievement represents the world’s most advanced commercial space radar for mapping low Earth orbit, deployed in record time

MENLO PARK, April 22, 2021 (LeoLabs PR) — LeoLabs, Inc., the leading commercial provider of low Earth orbit (LEO) mapping and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services, today confirmed “fully operational” status for its Costa Rica Space Radar, effective immediately. This new phased-array radar reinforces LeoLabs’ leadership as the premier data and services provider to inform and protect the rapidly expanding commercial and governmental activities in LEO.


Aethera’s RF Power Unit for VASIMR Engine Completes Tests in Texas

WEBSTER, Texas and Halifax, NS (Ad Astra Rocket Co. PR) – A new generation radio-frequency (RF) Power Processing Unit (PPU) for the VASIMR engine, built for Ad Astra Rocket Company by Aethera Technologies Ltd. of Canada, has completed a full-power test in vacuum at Ad Astra’s Texas facility near Houston. The test, conducted on January 20th, involved operating the unit in hard vacuum and thermal steady-state at its full power rating of 120 kW. As part of the test, the PPU was also subjected to the magnetic field of the VASIMR engine to verify that there is no magnetic effect on the PPU performance.


Aethera’s New RF Power Processing Unit for Ad Astra’s VASIMR Engine Completes Full Power Acceptance Tests

WEBSTER, Texas USA and HALIFAX, NS, Canada – A new generation radio-frequency (RF) Power Processing Unit (PPU) for the VASIMR engine, built by Aethera Technologies Ltd. of Canada, has completed a series of full power acceptance tests at Ad Astra Rocket Company’s Texas facility near Houston. The unit completed these tests on August 12 by operating in a thermal steady-state with no anomalies at its full power rating of 120 kW.

The RF PPU is now ready to be incorporated into Ad Astra’s vacuum facility so that it can be tested with the VX- 200SS VASIMR prototype. These tests are part of Ad Astra’s ongoing program under the NASA NextSTEP partnership contract.


Ad Astra Strengthens Green Hydrogen Footprint in Costa Rica

LIBERIA, Costa Rica (Ad Astra PR)  — Ad Astra Rocket Company, Costa Rica, has initiated two major projects valued at approximately US$765,000 to strengthen Central America’s first green hydrogen ecosystem.

Project partners are, Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF), a global foundation established by the Toyota Motor Corporation to support the development of a more mobile society, and IDBLab, the innovation laboratory of the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) Group that supports early-stage ventures that can dramatically improve the lives of vulnerable populations due to economic, social or environmental factors. The CRUSA Foundation, a Costa Rican NGO, promoting Costa Rica’s development, is responsible for the administration of both projects.


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.


NASA Space Act Agreements with Virgin Galactic, Moon Express, NanoRacks and More

NASA has released a document listing the 1,206 active Space Act Agreements  (SAAs) the agency has with commercial companies, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.

From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with Virgin Group companies, Moon Express and NanoRacks. There is also a fourth table that has SAAs with a number of companies and organizations that we follow on Parabolic Arc.

SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)


Ad Astra Completes NextSTEP Milestones for Year Two

WEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra PR) — Ad Astra Rocket Company has successfully completed all contract milestones and deliverables for the second of its three-year Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) contract with NASA. The 9 million dollar, fixed-price contract remains on schedule and on budget. After a successful year-two performance review at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. on July 24, 2017 and completion of a 10-hour cumulative test of the 200SSTM rocket at 100kW, Ad Astra received NASA approval to proceed with year-three activities.


House to Hold Hearing on In-Space Propulsion

House of Representatives

Space Subcommittee Hearing

In-Space Propulsion: Strategic Choices and Options
Date: Thursday, June 29, 2017 – 10:00am
Location: 2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Hearing Purpose
NASA is pursuing several in-space propulsion technologies to advance not only human exploration, but also uncrewed spacecraft operations. The hearing will explore NASA’s current portfolio of investments in in-space propulsion technologies, the state of the various technologies, and how they fit into future space architectures.


  • Mr. William Gerstenmaier — Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, NASA
  • Mr. Stephen Jurczyk — Associate Administrator, Space Technology Mission Directorate, NASA
  • Dr. Mitchell Walker — Chair, Electric Propulsion Technical Committee, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
  • Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz — Founder and CEO, Ad Astra Rocket Company
  • Mr. Joe Cassady — Executive Director for Space, Washington Operations, Aerojet Rocketdyne
  • Dr. Anthony Pancotti — Director of Propulsion Research, MSNW LLC

Ad Astra Rocket Company Completes First Year NextSTEP Milestones

ad_astraWEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra Rocket Co. PR) – Ad Astra Rocket Company has successfully completed all milestones and deliverables for the first of its three-year Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) contract with NASA. The $9 million-dollar, fixed price agreement, is structured as a one-year contract with two additional one-year extensions, based on successful completion of project milestones. After a successful year-one performance review, Ad Astra received NASA approval to proceed with year-two activities.


Ad Astra, NASA Complete Negotiations on NextSTEP Partnership Program

ad_astraWEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra PR) – Ad Astra Rocket Company and NASA have successfully completed contract negotiations on the company’s Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) award, announced on March 31, 2015, and now enter the execution phase of the project.

The parties executed the contract, a three-year, fixed price agreement, on August 7, 2015 for a total value of just over $9 million. The agreement is structured as a one-year contract with two additional one-year extensions based on the accomplishment of mutually agreed upon progress milestones.


Ad Astra Rocket Company Wins NASA Propulsion Contract

A VASIMR powered space tug. (Credit: Ad Astra Rocket Company)
A VASIMR powered space tug. (Credit: Ad Astra Rocket Company)

WEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra PR) – Ad Astra Rocket Company has been selected by NASA as one of the winners of the space agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) competitive solicitation, which opened in November of 2014. The official announcement was made by NASA on March 30.


NASA Announces 12 NextSTEP Partnerships

NASA LOGOWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Building on the success of NASA’s partnerships with commercial industry to date, NASA has selected 12 Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) to advance concept studies and technology development projects in the areas of advanced propulsion, habitation and small satellites.

Through these public-private partnerships, selected companies will partner with NASA to develop the exploration capabilities necessary to enable commercial endeavors in space and human exploration to deep-space destinations such as the proving ground of space around the moon, known as cis-lunar space, and Mars.

“Commercial partners were selected for their technical ability to mature key technologies and their commitment to the potential applications both for government and private sector uses,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters. “This work ultimately will inform the strategy to move human presence further into the solar system.”


Zubrin Challenges Chang Diaz to Debate Over Mars Exploration, VASIMR Engine

There seems to be a trend of prominent space experts challenging each other to debates.

First, New Horizons Supremo Alan Stern challenged Neil deGrasse Tyson to debate whether Pluto should be restored to planetary status. Stern, whose mission will explore Pluto next year, believes it should be elevated from dwarf planet status. Tyson, the driving force behind Pluto’s demotion, refused to debate the subject.

Now, it’s Robert Zubrin’s turn. The Mars Society president has challenged Ad Astra Rocket Company Founder Franklin Chang-Diaz to a debate over how to best explore Mars. Near as I can tell from the press release, it would give Zubrin a chance to demonstrate that Ad Astra’s plasma-based VASIMR engine, which Chang Diaz is promoting for rapid trips to Mars, is pretty much a fraud.

Wow, who could turn down an invitation like that?


Ad Astra Signs $400K Deal on Hydrogen Technology Development

ad_astraLiberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica (Ad Astra PR) — Ad Astra Rocket Company, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Ad Astra Rocket Company, Costa Rica, SRL (Ad Astra, CR) and Costa Rica’s state-owned Petroleum Refinery, RECOPE, have signed a US$400,000 contract setting forth the next phase of their ongoing collaboration in hydrogen technology development. The agreement was signed by Litleton Bolton Jones, President of the Board of RECOPE and Franklin Chang Díaz, Ad Astra’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. The partnership, which was formed in 2010, is exploring the operational viability of a hydrogen-based transportation infrastructure in Costa Rica, the primary goal of which is to reduce the nation’s reliance on imported oil. Hydrogen is a clean, renewable fuel that can be produced from water by wind and/or solar energy.