VASIMR: Hammer-down in Space

 

 

Very cool technology being developed by Ad Astra Rocket Company: using plasma engines to reach Mars in 39 days. Hammer-down: space truckin at 110,000 MPH.

Excellent piece in SpaceflightNow.com on the VASIMR engine…

The company’s main project is the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR, a highly-efficient space engine running on electricity and argon gas instead of conventional solid or liquid propellants.

Franklin Chang-Diaz, the project’s chief architect, says the VASIMR engine is the most flight-ready high-power electric propulsion system anywhere in the world.

"It is transformational technology that we are developing," Chang-Diaz said. "It always has been my view that chemical approach to space transportation really was not going to get us very far."
 
Chemical rocket engines require spacecraft to carry all of its propellant during its mission. The VASIMR engine burns small amounts of argon gas, one of the most stable elements on the periodic table. But one of the most revolutionary features of the VASIMR design is its reliance on electricity, a renewable resource in space.

"It’s very robust, but in order to get beyond the moon, and move on to Mars and beyond, we really need completely new transportation technology," Chang-Diaz said. "We view the VASIMR as the workhorse for that transportation infrastructure."

Electrically-powered plasma rockets could cut travel times for missions across the solar system. One concept championed by Chang-Diaz involves a 39-day mission to Mars, but it assumes leaps in nuclear energy production in space. 

 

 

 

Yeah, it works alright. Watch this engine test…

 

Here’s a video clip about the company…

 

And a simulation of the trip to Mars…

 

 

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