Research and Development

Research & Development

The main focus of the Ad Astra's Research & Development efforts is the VX-200, which is a VASIMR® prototype designed to test flight-related hardware and technology in a space-like environment. The VX-200 technologically advanced components are the solid-state RF amplifiers, developed by Nautel, superconducting magnet, built by Scientific Magnetics, and the on-board computer control. The VX-200 serves as a technology demonstration and risk mitigation platform, in addition to serving as a means to explore fundamental plasma physics for academic purposes. The record performance numbers for VX-200 operating with argon propellant are:

  • RF Power: 200 kW;
  • thrust: 5.7 N;
  • exhaust speed: 50 km/s;
  • thruster efficiency: 72 % (jet power divided by coupled RF power).

In addition to our efforts towards the development of the VASIMR® engine, we also specialize functional testing of third-party hardware in extreme conditions such as microgravity, high magnetic field, high vacuum, and RFI environments. Our scientists have accumulated over 50 hours flight time with hardware in a microgravity environment on board NASA's ZERO-G aircraft. Ad Astra is willing to work with those who wish extreme limits of their technology or have a desire to fast-track their designs to flight readiness.

Ad Astra's control area where scientists are operating the VX-200 rocket. Credit: Kat's Photography

 
Ad Astra's scientists working around the 150 m3 vacuum chamber.  Credit: Ad Astra Rocket Company
 
 
Ad Astra's scientists using a laser alignment rig with the VX-200 to precisely line the rocket core with the magnetic field.  Credit: Ad Astra Rocket Company
 
 
 A movie clip of the plasma exhaust from the VX-200 operating at full power inside of the AARC vacuum chamber.
Zero-G Testing
Ad Astra scientist's testing hardware on board the NASA Zero-G aircraft