Wednesday, September 2, 2015

NASA Funds Plasma Rocket Technology for Superfast Space Travel

NASA Funds Plasma Rocket Technology for Superfast Space Travel: Superfast journeys to Mars may be one big step closer for humanity, as NASA has sponsored a private company to develop a high-tech, plasma engine.

Ad Astra Rocket Company, specializing in the development of plasma rocket propulsion technology, has finished contract negotiations with NASA. As part of the Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) award, the space agency will cover half of Ad Astra's testing expenses over the next three years.

Known as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR, the engine uses plasma technology to accelerate rockets to previously unattainable speeds. To create plasma, the proposed engines will heat pressurized gas to extremely high temperatures with radio waves. The resulting plasma is kept under control with magnetic fields.

"These experiments aim to demonstrate the engine's new proprietary core design and thermal control subsystem and to better estimate component lifetime," reads a statement from Ad Astra.

If the company successfully develops VASIMR, it could be possible for humans to reach Mars in less than two months.