TO MARS AND BEYOND: UH RESEARCHERS PARTICIPATE
IN ROCKET RESEARCH
Professor Edgar Bering and Michael Brukardt Recognized
for Co-authored Paper with NASA and UT
HOUSTON, July 14, 2004 – With their main objective to develop
a rocket for a manned mission to Mars, UH Professor Edgar Bering
and his student, Michael Brukardt, were among the authors of an
award-winning technical paper recognized at a recent conference
in Portland, Ore.
The paper presents results of research in which Bering and Brukardt
are participating at NASA Johnson Space Center surrounding the Variable
Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR), which is a prototype
spacecraft electric propulsion system intended for large high-power
missions to Mars and beyond. While the main goal for VASIMR is for
manned Mars missions, it also can be used for big robotic missions
and be put to civilian use in commercial passenger spacecraft.
“Our device is a prototype for the midcourse sustainer engines
for this type mission,” Bering said. “VASIMR is a plasma
rocket as opposed to an ion engine. That means it uses a neutral
but ionized gas as propellant. Ion engines generate thrust with
a charged stream of positive ions.”
A high-power, radio frequency driven magnetoplasma rocket, VASIMR’s
physics and engineering have been under study since 1980. The multifaceted
research surrounding it involves theory, experimentation, engineering
design, mission analysis and technology development. The paper reviewed
the plasma diagnostic results obtained from 2002 to 2004 in a continuing
series of performance optimization and design development studies,
as well as outlined a plan and strategies for continued research.
Titled “Velocity Phase Space Studies of Ion Dynamics in
the VASIMR Engine,” the paper was named the 2004 American
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Best Paper for
its technical and scientific excellence by the AIAA Plasmadynamics
and Lasers Technical Committee. Held in conjunction with the recent
AIAA Fluid Dynamics Conference, the award ceremony honored Bering,
a professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering,
and Brukardt, a research assistant in physics, both at the University
of Houston; Franklin Chang-Diaz, Jared Squire and Tim Glover, all
of NASA Johnson Space Center; and Roger Bengtson, physics professor,
from the University of Texas at Austin.
About the University of Houston
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