In the past The Costa Rica Star had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Franklin Chang.
You don’t have to be a professional investor like Warren Buffet or a rocket scientist to regard the news with excitement: a European firm has announced its intention to buy stock in Ad Astra Rocket.
Ad Astra is the company of Costa Rican physicist and former astronaut Dr. Franklin Chang working on the plasma rocket engine, which promises to revolutionize space travel in the next generation.
The firm is currently working on the new engine at a lab in Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. The interested firm is Astrium North America, a subsidiary of Astrium Europe.
Through a communique to Hecho Relevante, Ad Astra said that it is in advanced negotiations with the subsidiary for participation in the rocket engine company.
Ad Astra, which has branches both in Costa Rica and the United States, first established relations with Astrium North America in 2009. Last June, the company indicated its interest in using Ad Astra’s technology that it has developed in work on its VASIMR plasma engine.
The capital participation in Ad Astra will be in exchange for the construction of the Aurora platform to carry the VASIMR rocket on its initial trials in space. (A model of such a platform was constructed by a consortium of small local aerospace firms last year.)
Specifically, Astrium is interested in using VASIMR to power its Astrium Automated Transfer Vehicle or ATV. The ATV is currently in service transporting cargo to the International Space Station.
But the North American subsidiary is interested in using a VASIMR-powered version for such work as establishing and repositioning satellites and space vehicles. The plasma rocket has a longer range than normal chemical rockets and is cheaper to run as well.
Business opportunities were explored last April in a technical assistance agreement signed in the United States.
“It’s a German company,” explained Dr. Chang to the national paper La Nacion, “with ties to the European (Space) Agency. It will be a strategic alliance.”
Chang has conducted experiments with the engine at his laboratory in Liberia, Guanacaste province, but it will really show its stuff when fired up in space.