Press Release

To Mars and Beyond: UH Researchers Participate in Rocket Research

By SpaceRef Editor
July 16, 2004
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Professor Edgar Bering and Michael Brukardt Recognized for Co-authored Paper with NASA and UT

HOUSTON, 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
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and
teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and
institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic
and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in
the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service
with more than 35,000 students.

SpaceRef staff editor.