Half a century ago, the space age was born with the roar of a mighty rocket and the beeping of the first radio message from space. America’s bold and timely leadership, embodied in JFK’s words still resonates: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” .
Today we are doing something hard, opening the space frontier for the many and not just the few and thus insuring humanity’s long-term survival. The involvement of the private sector in this new and exciting human adventure is reminiscent of the opening of the American west by the construction of railroads and the new service economy spawned by them. But traveling the vast ocean of interplanetary space requires new technologies in advanced power and propulsion, as well as radiation protection.
A new advanced propulsion technology called VASIMR® and based on high temperature plasma is currently under full scale development by Ad Astra Rocket Company. The latest results of this research are exciting and bode well for the first space test scheduled for late 2014 on the International Space Station. This talk will cover the historical milestones in the development of the VASIMR®, from its early origins in the 1980s at MIT, through its formative years as a NASA project, to its technological maturation at Ad Astra. Dr. Chang Diaz will discuss its present status, major challenges and the company’s current plans for full commercial deployment of the technology in support of a rapidly emerging space market.