About us - Ad Astra Rocket Company

History

Magnetic Divertor1973: As a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Franklin Chang Díaz studied the behavior of super-hot gases, called plasmas, as part of the quest for controlled thermonuclear fusion: the process that powers the sun and the stars as a source of power on Earth.

1977: Franklin Chang Díaz's PhD Thesis involved the controlling and ducting of million degree plasmas, in magnetic structures called magnetic mirrors.

1982: Franklin Chang Díaz published a paper entitled “A Supersonic Gas Target for a Bundle Diverter Plasma”, which led to the concept for a plasma rocket, which initially was called the “Hybrid Plume Plasma Rocket.” The first written disclosure of the VASIMR® engine was witnessed by NASA colleagues in Dr. Chang’s Log Book.

MIT Magnetic Mirror Experiment1983: First VASIMR®propulsion experiment was conducted at MIT on the magnetic mirror plasma device.

1989: First VASIMR® patent is acquired

1990s: Important refinements are introduced to the rocket concept, including the use of the “helicon” plasma source, which replaced the initial plasma gun originally envisioned and made the rocket completely “Electrodeless”, an extremely desirable feature to assure reliability and long life.

ASPL in 19941995: The advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory (ASPL) was founded at NASA's Johnson Space Center, in Houston. The first plasma experiment in Houston was conducted using microwave plasma source. Collaborations with University of Houston, University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and other academic research institutions were established.

1998: The first helicon plasma experiment was performed at the ASPL. A decision was made regarding official name of the VASIMR® engine and the VASIMR® experiment (VX). The VX-10 operated a helicon discharge up to 10 KW RF power.

2000: The VASIMR®group was given the Stellar Award, a Rotary National Award for Space Achievement.

VX-50 at the ASPL2002: The third VASIMR patent is granted. The VX-25 and VX-50 experiments operated to 25 kW and 50 kW power, respectively. 

2005: Major breakthroughs were obtained at the ASPL including full and efficient plasma production, and acceleration of the plasma ions in the second stage of the rocket.

Ad Astra Rocket Company is incorporated in Delaware. Ad Astra and NASA signed first Space Act Agreement to privatize the VASIMR®Technology. Franklin Chang Díaz retires from NASA after 25 years of service. Ad Astra's Board of Directors is formed, and Franklin Chang Díaz takes the helm as Chairman and CEO.

2006: AARC opens the Costa Rica subsidiary in the city of Liberia, Guanacaste on the campus of EARTH University. AARC-Costa Rica performs first helicon plasma experiment on the VX-CR device utilizing argon propellant.

VX-1002007: The VX-100 VASIMR® experiment demonstrates efficient plasma production with an ionization cost below 100 eV/ion. The VX-100 plasma output is tripled over the prior record of the VX-50. AARC moves out of NASA NBL facility to its own building in Webster, TX. NASA's Johnson Space Center and Ad Astra sign a second Space Act Agreement.

2008: The large vacuum chamber becomes operational and VX-200i generates the first plasma in the new facility. NASA and Ad Astra sign the Space Act Agreement for a flight test of a VASIMR® engine onboard the International Space Station. 

2009: The VX-200 superconducting magnet arrives enabling plasma operation at an FR power of 200 kW for the first time. 

2010: Record VX-200 performance (72% efficiency) is achieved at 200 kW.

2011: A detailed throttle table is created for the first stage of the VX-200 using both argon and krypton. The VX-200 plasma plume is mapped in detail during high vacuum conditions.

2012: The VX-200 demonstrates enhanced performance and efficient constant power throttling.