Feeds

Space boffins fire up plasma engine

Four hour run for experimental tech

Seven Steps to Software Security

Costa Rica-based scientists from the Ad Astra Rocket Company have run a Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine continuously for over four hours, thereby setting a new record for the tech.

The company, headed by Costa Rica-born former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz, told Reuters yesterday it hopes the engines can be used to stabilise space stations "in a few years" and power a Mars jaunt within 20.

Chang-Diaz's brother Ronald, who is Ad Astra's executive director, said: "The first objective is to move small spacecraft in low orbit by 2010."

For those of you not au fait with VASIMR, the company's website explains:

The system encompasses three linked magnetic cells. The "Plasma Source" cell involves the main injection of neutral gas (typically hydrogen, or other light gases) to be turned into plasma and the ionisation subsystem. The "RF Booster" cell acts as an amplifier to further energize the plasma to the desired temperature using electromagnetic waves. The "Magnetic Nozzle" cell converts the energy of the plasma into directed motion and ultimately useful thrust.

Ad Astra ran an earlier test on its VASIMR engine last December, but managed just two minutes before overheating forced a shut-down. Since then, the scientists have been working on an improved cooling system. The company's Costa Rica branch focuses on endurance, while another lab in Houston conducts tests "aimed at boosting the engine's overall power". ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.