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Nautel Shoots for the Stars

Transmitter company notes power milestone of its client Ad Astra

A few companies with broadcast manufacturing plants have entire separate engineering and technology divisions involved in other industries, while some small companies (think Bauer Transmitters) can cite roots in the post-World War II science/technology revolution and “Atomic Age” 1950s.

But many broadcast equipment manufacturers stick to a clearly defined area of expertise and experience.

Nautel Ltd. however has an interesting, non-broadcast niche. The Canadian company is involved in rocket science. As RW has reported in the past, the company is working with Ad Astra Rocket Co. of Houston to develop a plasma engine for use in space. Nautel provides such parts as solid-state RF generators.

The supplier now says Ad Astra recently successfully reached a “maximum power milestone” of 200 kW for its VASIMR VX-200. The letters are an acronym for Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket.

Plasmas are electrically charged fluids that can be heated to extreme temperatures by radio waves and controlled and guided by magnetic fields, Nautel explained; it pointed to a sample video of VASIMR plasma rocket technology.

Ad Astra aims for 2014 commercial deployment, saying the technology could cut costs of space exploration and shorten mission times.

Now, who’s working on those long-promised jet packs?