Video of Panel Discussion of Advanced Space Propulsion

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Newspace 2010 had a panel discussion on advanced space propulsion. (Parabolic Arc provides a summary and the youtube link of the one hour discussion is embedded below)

Approaching Warp Speed: Advanced Space Propulsion

Bruce Pittman (Moderator) – NASA Ames Space Portal
Franklin Chang-Diaz – CEO and President, Ad Astra Rocket Company
Leik Myrabo – CEO, Lightcraft Technologies, Inc.; Research Associate Professor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Steve Howe – Director, Center for Space Nuclear Research

Vince Teofilo – Lockheed Martin

Franklin Chang-Diaz Ad Astra Rocket Company

– VASIMR - plasma rocket
– Fusion and plasma physics and magnetic mirrors
– First experiments done at MIT in the early 1980s
– VX-50 – 50 kilowatt test bed where they verified most of the controlling physics of the device
– About 2004-05 – NASA decided to shut down its advanced propulsion program to support other efforts
– A “virtual massacre” occurred
– Convinced NASA to privatize the project – formed the Ad Astra Rocket Company in 2005
– Space Act agreement with NASA
– Able to bring in large sums of money to make the project possible
– VX-100 – VASIMR experiment 100 kilowatts
– Finished experiment in 2007
– VX-200 – fully integrated prototype inside of a vacuum chamber
– Last September, fired the engine at 200 kilowatts
– Next step – ISS test – signed an agreement with NASA in December 2008
– VF-200 – VASIMR Flight 200 kilowatts
– Will tests VF-200 in mid-2014
– Develop a space tub that allows them to work in LEO, lunar orbit and possibly Mars missions – using only solar power
– Larger rockets will be tested on the moon

Leik Myrabo CEO, Lightcraft Technologies, Inc.

– Showed video of a laser-powered lightcraft – funded by FINDS group
– Lifting small payloads to orbit using ground-based power
– Formed Lightcraft Technologies Inc.
– $10 million – put 1 kilogram cargo into suborbital trajectory
– Looking to locate in Las Cruces, New Mexico
– Beamed energy propulsion – vehicle is a power converter
– Multiple concepts being pursued around the world
– Doesn’t think that chemical rockets will be dropped more than 10-15 percent
– Beamed propulsion could cut costs by factors of 10s or 100s or even 1000s
– Phased approach – 1 kilogram to 10 kilograms to 100 kilograms
– High-level work between U.S. and Brazilian air forces to develop technology
– Economic, technical and political obstacles to beamed propulsion
– Point-to-point travel possible with beamed propulsion – anywhere in the world in 45 minutes
– Replace system of jumbo jets with lightcrafts

Steve Howe Director, Center for Space Nuclear Research

– Based in Idaho Falls, Idaho
– RTGs – used since the 1960s – Apollo and deep space missions
– Working on radioisotope thermal rocket
– Mars hopper – hop 10 kilometers every five days with a small payload
– Liquify carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and use it to power the propulsion systems
– Working on nuclear thermal rocket
– Can no longer have radioactive material in exhaust
– Shifting to a tungsten-based fuel
– Trying to produce a lower mass, high propulsion rocket for space
– Nuclear thermal rockets could open up the Solar System for robotic and human exploration

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