High-Tech VASIMR Rocket Engine Could Tackle Mars Trips, Space Junk and More
By Leonard David, SPACE.com’s Space Insider Columnist | November 19, 2013 07:01am ET
Scientists are making progress on an advanced space propulsion system aimed at a variety of uses, including reboosting space stations, cleaning up space junk and powering superfast journeys that could reach Mars in less than two months.
Led by former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Díaz, Ad Astra Rocket Co. is developing the versatile, high-tech engine, which is known as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR for short.
Engine work has been underway for more than 25 years, and is based on NASA and U.S. Department of Energy research and development in plasma physics and space propulsion technology. Commercializing the VASIMR electric propulsion engine is the flagship project of Ad Astra, which has been in business for nine years and has invested $30 million to date to mature the concept.
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