Anyone who is a space cadet knows about the change in NASA’s budget for FY 2011. If you’re a Constellation Program fan, sucks to be you.
For quite some time now Frank Chang Diaz’s company, Ad Astra Rocket Company, has been trying to make science-fiction come true by developing a space drive engine that couples efficiency with power, the VX-200 that was tested last November.
Well, a lot of folks think that Frank’s engine is bullsh*t, but NASA thinks that a test engine, the VF-200-1 can be mounted on the ISS as an orbital adjuster to take the place of the Russian Soyuz or Progress spacecraft that’s presently used:
The VX-200 will provide the critical data set to build the VF-200-1, the first flight unit, to be tested in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS). It will consist of two 100 kW units with opposite magnetic dipoles, resulting in a zero-torque magnetic system. The electrical energy will come from ISS at low power level, be stored in batteries and used to fire the engine at 200 kW. The VF-200-1 project will serve as a “pathfinder” for the ISS National Laboratory by demonstrating a new class of larger, more complex science and technology payloads.
Now Bolden proposes in 2015 NASA bid on a Chang-Diaz Drive nuclear-powered lunar tug to supply missions to the Moon’s surface:
Future moon utilization will require a great deal of cargo in the form of facilities, machinery, vehicles, and supplies. Present planning assumes that all of this cargo will be transferred from low Earth orbit to the Moon’s surface by chemical propulsion.
An unmanned cargo capability based on VASIMR® propulsion offers significant cost savings to the proposed lunar exploration program. VASIMR® delivers the highest fraction of the initial mass in low Earth orbit (IMLEO) to the Moon, thereby reducing the cost per kg. In a 6 month lunar cargo mission, a VASIMR® with 5,000 s specific impulse can deliver approximately double the payload mass of a chemical rocket system.
However, the Congress-critters who have Constellation Program manufacturing centers in their respective states’ districts’ have had quite a successful media campaign against the new NASA budget and I gotta give them credit, the “Obama killed American human-spaceflight” Kool-Aid has been drunk by a lot of people. Constellation isn’t quite dead yet. In fact, its death-throes could go on all year.
Eventually though, the future will come upon us all and Diazs’ VASIMR will be the future of Solar System travel.
But as an old college professor of mine said years ago, “The only people who like change are babies with crappy diapers.”