4. Can a VASIMR® vehicle take off from the ground like the Space Shuttle?
No. Plasma rockets are very fuel efficient but produce much less thrust than their chemical cousins. So, for the foreseeable future, chemical rockets will remain the most effective way to get cargo and humans to and from low Earth orbit (and to land and take off from other planets.) Plasma rockets such as a VASIMR® engine, are far more suitable to enable a very high speed interplanetary cruise. They would be launched into space by a traditional chemical rocket. Once in space, the VASIMR® engine (s) would turn on and apply a gentle but continuous force for a period or weeks, months, or even years, slowly accelerating to very high velocities.