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VASIMR Plasma Thruster To Be Tested Aboard ISS 81

Toren Altair brings news that NASA and the Ad Astra Rocket Company finalized a Space Act Agreement earlier this week to test the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) on the International Space Station. The agreement hinges on a series of requirements for the thruster's performance and efficiency in ground-based tests. "The primary technical objective of the project is to operate the VASIMR VF-200 engine at power levels up to 200 kW. Engine operation will be restricted to pulses of up to 10 minutes at this power level. Energy for these high-power operations will be provided by a battery system trickle-charged by the ISS power system. These tests will mark the first time that a high-power, steady-state electric thruster will be used as part of a manned spacecraft." Reader clarkes1 points out related news of a runway trial for Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo, the mothership that is designed to carry SpaceShipTwo from the ground to 50,000 feet. A very brief video shows the oddly-shaped plane moving down a runway under its own power.

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