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MSNW’s plasma thruster fires up Congress

Pulsed power units
Pulsed power units are arrayed around the business end of MSNW’s thruster. (MSNW Photo)

How will we send humans to the moon, Mars and other destinations in space? The chances are good that electric propulsion will play a role, and a company called MSNW is at the cutting edge of that technology.

The director of propulsion research for Redmond, Wash.-based MSNW, Anthony Pancotti, will take a share of Capitol Hill’s spotlight on June 29 during a hearing organized by the House Subcommittee on Space. And he expects to learn as much from his encounter with lawmakers as they’ll learn from him.

“We’re all curious about what Congress wants to talk about,” Pancotti told GeekWire from Washington, D.C., on the eve of the hearing.

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Magnetoshell gets in on NASA’s way-out funding

Image: Magnetoshell aerocapture concept
MSNW’s magnetoshell aerocapture concept could help ease spaceships into orbit. (Credit: MSNW)

A system that would use magnetic fields to ease a spacecraft into orbit after an interplanetary journey has won a $500,000 grant from NASA’s advanced research program for MSNW, a company based in Redmond. Wash.

The money for MSNW is one of eight Phase II awards made through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, also known as NIAC. Other projects look into such way-out ideas as suspended animation, beamed energy for interstellar travel and a satellite-airplane hybrid that could stay up in the air for months at a time.

MSNW’s magnetoshell aerocapture system is designed to take advantage of aerodynamic drag as well as magnetized plasma to slow a spacecraft down and as it dips through a planet’s atmosphere.

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