Saturday, May 15, 2010

VASIMR engine for Mars mission

The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) Mars engine would send astronauts to mars in 40 days. It uses radio waves to ionize and heat a propellant and magnetic fields to accelerate the resulting plasma to generate thrust.

Franklin Chang-Diaz set up the Ad Astra Rocket Company in January 2005 to begin development of the VASIMR engine. Later that year, the company signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA, and were granted control of the Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory. In this lab, a 50 kW prototype was constructed, and underwent testing in a vacuum chamber. Later, a 100 kW version was developed, and this was followed by a 200 kW prototype. After a long period of rigorous testing in a 150 m3 vacuum chamber, the latest configuration was deemed space-worthy, and it was announced that the company had entered into an agreement to test the VF-200 engine on the International Space Station, in or before 2013.

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