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starship-design: VASIMR

Title: Untitled Stationery
Several recent conversations started me thinking about plasma engines again. I just got around to doing a new search on VASIMR this morning. It seems that Rice has put a great site up on it with lots of information. If anybody wants to learn about a REAL plasma engine that is currently test firing (not just a drawing on paper) the link is:
The current design ( ground test unit) is a 10 MW unit and is capable of an ISP up to 10^22 n(m^-3). They have posted a nice chart showing the expected upgrade path to a 100 MW device by 2018. There is also a great graphic of a Mars Pathfinder vehicle.
There are two key things about this engine, first it is capable of variable thrust and specific impulse at full power, which makes it ideal for multi-role missions. Second, it is relatively efficient at 60% efficiency. Check the site out.
"They make a desert and call it peace."