Feeds

Space boffins fire up plasma engine

Four hour run for experimental tech

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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". ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.