A new generation radio-frequency Power Processing Unit (PPU) for the VASIMR® engine, built by Canada-based Aethera Technologies Ltd., has completed a series of full power acceptance tests at Ad Astra Rocket Company’s Texas facility near Houston.

To pass the tests, the unit operated in a thermal steady-state with no anomalies at its full power rating of 120kW. Following the tests, the radio-frequency PPU can be incorporated into Ad Astra’s vacuum facility to be tested with the VX-200SS™ VASIMR® prototype.

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The radio-frequency PPU is a critical component of the VASIMR® engine, providing the radio-frequency energy needed to efficiently ionize and heat the argon propellant in the rocket. The resulting high temperature plasma is accelerated in the magnetic nozzle to provide thrust.

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Source: Ad Astra Rocket Company

The development of the radio-frequency PPU is being support by Ad Astra and The Canadian Space Agency (CSA). CSA’s support is part of a contribution agreement under the Space Technology and Development Programme announced on 25th May (2018).

“We are extremely pleased with the results of these tests,” said Dr. Franklin R. Chang Díaz, CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company. 

“The Aethera and Ad Astra teams have worked very hard and very well together to achieve this important milestone, and we look forward to the road ahead with excitement and optimism.”

“We are extremely pleased with the results of these tests. The Aethera and Ad Astra teams have worked very hard and very well together to achieve this important milestone, and we look forward to the road ahead with excitement and optimism.”

The tests are part of Ad Astra’s ongoing programme under the NASA NextSTEP partnership contract.