July 25, 2007

VASIMIR Breakthrough!!

One of the Brickmuppets' crack team of science babestm  is barely able to control her glee as she reports from Costa Rica that scientists in San Jose have achieved an impressive breakthrough in VASIMR  plasma engines.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Scientists in Costa Rica have run a plasma rocket engine continuously for a record of more than four hours, the latest achievement in a mission to cut costs and travel time for spacecraft.

More on Ad-Astra rockets, the company involved, here. A discussion of this story (which is actually from June) is going on at Nasa Spaceflight. VASIMR or VAriable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rockets are plasma thrusting engines of fuel efficiency comparable to ion engines, but they have the ability to be throttled and vastly increase thrust for short periods. While this is not enough thrust to launch a rocket from earth it gives certain advantages over ion engines in speed and keeps the long endurance, constant thrust advantage of the ion engines. More on these interesting rockets here, here and here.

The fact that the founders of Ad Astra Rockets had to leave NASA to pursue this is dismaying, but their perseverance does seem to have paid off!

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