WASHINGTON (NASA HQ PR) — NASA has selected hundreds of small businesses and dozens of research institutions to develop technology to help drive the future of space exploration, ranging from novel sensors and electronics to new types of software and cutting-edge materials. The newly awarded projects under the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program also include a high-power electric rocket and a coating to make solar panels more efficient that could be used both in space and here on Earth.
WEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra Rocket Co. PR) — Ad Astra Rocket Company’s VASIMR® VX-200SS Plasma Rocket has completed 88 hours of continuous operation at 80 kW at the company’s Texas laboratory near Houston. In doing so, the company establishes a new high-power world endurance record in electric propulsion. The test also demonstrates the maturity of the VASIMR® engine technology as a competitive option for high-power in-space electric propulsion with either solar or nuclear electric power. Electric rockets operating above 50 kW/thruster are considered “high-power.”
WEBSTER, Texas and Halifax, NS (Ad Astra Rocket Co. PR) – A new generation radio-frequency (RF) Power Processing Unit (PPU) for the VASIMR engine, built for Ad Astra Rocket Company by Aethera Technologies Ltd. of Canada, has completed a full-power test in vacuum at Ad Astra’s Texas facility near Houston. The test, conducted on January 20th, involved operating the unit in hard vacuum and thermal steady-state at its full power rating of 120 kW. As part of the test, the PPU was also subjected to the magnetic field of the VASIMR engine to verify that there is no magnetic effect on the PPU performance.
WEBSTER, Texas USA and HALIFAX, NS, Canada – A new generation radio-frequency (RF) Power Processing Unit (PPU) for the VASIMR engine, built by Aethera Technologies Ltd. of Canada, has completed a series of full power acceptance tests at Ad Astra Rocket Company’s Texas facility near Houston. The unit completed these tests on August 12 by operating in a thermal steady-state with no anomalies at its full power rating of 120 kW.
The RF PPU is now ready to be incorporated into Ad Astra’s vacuum facility so that it can be tested with the VX- 200SS VASIMR prototype. These tests are part of Ad Astra’s ongoing program under the NASA NextSTEP partnership contract.
WEBSTER, Texas USA and Halifax, NS, Canada (Aethera Technologies/Ad Astra Rocket Company PR) – A $1.5 million funding agreement has been signed between Aethera Technologies Limited of Halifax, NS and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for the development of advanced high-power radiofrequency (RF) power processing units for Ad Astra’s VASIMR® engine.
The agreement, announced by the CSA on May 25, 2018, adds a major boost to Aethera’s RF power processing unit (RF-PPU) development program. The critical and innovative technology outcomes from this program supports the ongoing partnership between Ad Astra and Aethera to develop advanced, high-power, in-space electric propulsion.
WEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra PR) — Ad Astra Rocket Company has successfully completed all contract milestones and deliverables for the second of its three-year Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) contract with NASA. The 9 million dollar, fixed-price contract remains on schedule and on budget. After a successful year-two performance review at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. on July 24, 2017 and completion of a 10-hour cumulative test of the 200SSTM rocket at 100kW, Ad Astra received NASA approval to proceed with year-three activities.
WEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra Rocket Co. PR) – Ad Astra Rocket Company has successfully completed all milestones and deliverables for the first of its three-year Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) contract with NASA. The $9 million-dollar, fixed price agreement, is structured as a one-year contract with two additional one-year extensions, based on successful completion of project milestones. After a successful year-one performance review, Ad Astra received NASA approval to proceed with year-two activities.
WEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra PR) – Ad Astra Rocket Company and NASA have successfully completed contract negotiations on the company’s Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) award, announced on March 31, 2015, and now enter the execution phase of the project.
The parties executed the contract, a three-year, fixed price agreement, on August 7, 2015 for a total value of just over $9 million. The agreement is structured as a one-year contract with two additional one-year extensions based on the accomplishment of mutually agreed upon progress milestones.
WEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra PR) – Ad Astra Rocket Company has been selected by NASA as one of the winners of the space agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) competitive solicitation, which opened in November of 2014. The official announcement was made by NASA on March 30.
There seems to be a trend of prominent space experts challenging each other to debates.
First, New Horizons Supremo Alan Stern challenged Neil deGrasse Tyson to debate whether Pluto should be restored to planetary status. Stern, whose mission will explore Pluto next year, believes it should be elevated from dwarf planet status. Tyson, the driving force behind Pluto’s demotion, refused to debate the subject.
Now, it’s Robert Zubrin’s turn. The Mars Society president has challenged Ad Astra Rocket Company Founder Franklin Chang-Diaz to a debate over how to best explore Mars. Near as I can tell from the press release, it would give Zubrin a chance to demonstrate that Ad Astra’s plasma-based VASIMR engine, which Chang Diaz is promoting for rapid trips to Mars, is pretty much a fraud.
HOUSTON, Texas (Ad Astra PR) -– Ad Astra Rocket Company and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have signed an Umbrella Space Act Agreement to continue the parties’ collaboration in the development of the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket engine (VASIMR®).
Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica (Ad Astra PR) – Ad Astra Rocket Company, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Ad Astra Servicios Energéticos y Ambientales, Costa Rica, SRL (AASEA), in partnership with Costa Rica’s state-owned Petroleum Refinery, RECOPE, unveiled today the country’s first hydrogen generation and storage facility, a pilot project focusing on clean, renewable energy with applications in the transportation sector.
Houston, TX (Ad Astra PR) – Former Cummins Inc. (CMI, NYSE) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Theodore “Tim” Solso, an internationally-renowned technology and business leader, has been elected to the Board of Directors of Ad Astra Rocket Company. The vote was cast by the Corporation’s shareholders at their 2013 annual meeting on November 12, 2013, held at the Company’s Texas Headquarters near Houston. Solso’s election accompanies that of eight Directors who compose the nine-member Board. He becomes the 9th member to join the top leadership of the Company. His term begins immediately. All Ad Astra board members are elected annually.
Houston, TX (Ad Astra PR) – Former US Ambassador to Costa Rica, Anne Slaughter Andrew, a distinguished attorney, entrepreneur and environmentalist has been elected to the Board of Directors of Ad Astra Rocket Company. The unanimous vote was cast Friday, September 27, 2013, at Ad Astra’s Texas corporate headquarters near Houston during the board’s fourth scheduled meeting of 2013. Ambassador Andrew, a native of Evansville, Indiana, becomes the 8th member of the Ad Astra board and the first female director to join the top leadership of the company. Her term begins immediately and she will stand for re-election at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in November. All Ad Astra board members are elected annually.
NASA declined to comment on how many bids it received in response to a solicitation that closed on July 5, but a survey of U.S. launch companies by SpaceNews shows only SpaceX saying it put in a proposal to take over Launch Complex 39A.
Documents posted on NASA’s solicitation website shows the agency wants to have a commercial operator for Pad 39A in place by Oct. 1, 2013, when funding for maintenance is slated for termination.
UPDATE: Space News now reports that Blue Origin put in a bid for Pad 39A.
Johann-Dietrich Woerner, chairman of the German Aerospace Center, DLR, said the German government remains in favor of continued development of the current Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket, with possible evolutions including environmentally acceptable new fuels in place of the vehicle’s current solid-rocket boosters.
“The solution selected seems to be the most workable in terms of costs, but from an environmental point of view we are really taking a step backward,” Woerner said. “But my main point is: What is this launcher for? Is it to make life easy for commercial satellite operators, or is it to assure European launcher autonomy? If it’s the latter, then there are lots of ways of meeting this objective.”
I Can’t Quit You
Efforts to develop a domestic alternative to the Russian RD-180 engine that powers the Atlas V are stuck in second gear.
The buy-international model works so well that even an executive with the company working on an American alternative to the RD-180 — which has powered 43 flawless space launches since it made its U.S. debut on Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 3 rocket in 2000 — does not see much urgency on anyone’s part to bring such an engine to market.
“We don’t see a good business case for a pure commercial development of one of these engines,” Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of space programs at Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet Rocketdyne, told SpaceNews in a July 9 phone interview. “Not today.”