NASA’s New Vasimr Plasma Engine Could Reach Mars In Less Than 6 Weeks

NASA recently gave the Ad Astra Rocket Company in Texas $10 million to help develop its Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR), an electromagnetic thruster that can send a spaceship to Mars in 39 days. As part of the “12 Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnership,” NASA gave money to the project.

Ad Astra’s rocket will go ten times faster than chemical rockets do now, while using only one-tenth as much fuel.

Franklin Chang Diaz, who used to be an MIT student and a NASA astronaut and is now the CEO of Ad Astra, says that the VASIMR system would cut the trip to Mars by several months.
Diaz says, “This rocket is unlike any other you may have seen before. It’s a rocket made of plasma. The VASIMR Rocket is not used to send things into space. Instead, it is used to control things that are already there. This is called “propulsion in space.”

Radio waves are used in VASIMR to heat plasma, which is an electrically charged gas, to very high temperatures. The system then gives the engine thrust by sending the hot plasma out the back of the engine. Diaz says that VASIMR will save tens of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of gallons of rocket fuel every year.
This engine is really cool and can help us learn a lot about space. In the long run, this will help us get to the edges of our solar systems. This is completely unique.