Feeds

Space boffins fire up plasma engine

Four hour run for experimental tech

A new approach to endpoint data protection

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 Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?