Monday, May 29, 2006

Franklin Chang wants to bring space industry to Tiquicia

Franklin Chang. Photo by NASASAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Former NASA astronaut and researcher Franklin Chang-Diaz wants to bring the space industry to his native Costa Rica, and says he will start looking for 50 Central American investors to fund rocket production in the region.

Chang-Diaz told the newspaper El Financiero he hopes to set the project rolling in July and start producing his Magneto-Plasma Rocket by 2011 for sale to space agencies.

Chang-Diaz seemed surprised by the positive reaction to plans for bringing the space industry to Central America, a region where many people's main activity is still subsistence farming.

"We were positively surprised that there are investors in the region are interested in this type of business," said Chang-Diaz, who went into space on U.S. space shuttle flights and led research projects into rocket propulsion while at NASA.

He resigned from NASA and founded a private company, Ad Astra, to develop the plasma rocket design. The system uses radio waves to heat rocket fuel to temperatures high enough to classify as plasma _ a hot mass of electrically charged gas _ giving rocket engines greater power and efficiency.

Chang-Diaz calculates that a total of about $150 million to fund the project, and says he already has backing from European and American investors, as well as universities. He hopes to raise about $15 million from Central American investors.

About 90 percent of the rocket production process would be done in Houston, Texas, but about 10 percent would be performed at a laboratory Chang-Diaz has on Costa Rica's Pacific coast.

1 comment:

Andy said...

I found your blog as I was searching for the recent article in "La Nacion," which I couldn't read since I speak English (I am an American currently visiting Costa Rica). I'll keep checking this site, as I like your style of useful information on Costa Rica...and it's in English (my Spanish is growing, but still poor!). I also have a passion for all things space travel, so thanks for the post!


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