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
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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