Fund allows Ticos to invest in space travel

February 3, 2012

Thanks to Costa Rican astronaut Franklin Chang, for $100, anyone can become an investor in space travel. 

Chang’s Costa Rica-based Ad Astra Rocket Company is now offering affordable public shares to help finance its plasma rocket engine program, making Costa Rica the only country in the region where individuals can help change the way space travel is conducted. 

Ad Astra’s Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMIR) is expected to be the most powerful plasma engine in the world. Thanks to a new partnership between Ad Astra, the government-run National Insurance Institute (INS) and financial advising firm Aldesa, Costa Ricans can buy shares in the newly created Aurora CR1 fund for a minimum investment of $100. Forty percent of investments go to the company and the remainder is held in government-backed securities. The fund expires in January 2018.

“My dream is to take the company and turn it into a national project, something that all Costa Ricans can be proud of,” said Chang, who will soon be inducted into NASA’s Hall of Fame (TT, Jan. 27). 

Ad Astra Rocket Company is located in Liberia, capital of the northwestern province of Guanacaste. For the past seven years, the company has been developing VASIMIR, which will help lower the cost of space travel.

“It is extremely important to have this investment in order to keep oxygen flowing into the company during the pre-operational phase. [The fund] will give many Costa Ricans the opportunity to contribute to this project,” Chang said.  

Previously, the company allowed only minimum investments of $25,000. In February 2011, Ad Astra announced it would seek $80 million in private investment, the daily La Nación reported. 

For Chang, space travel and development is a growing market worth billions of dollars. He said he is confident that his company will play a vital, competitive role in new space programs, and Costa Ricans can help him do it.

“Two years ago, the aerospace market had a value of $276 billion, of which one-third came from government funds and two-thirds from private investment. It is a huge market, something like 10 times Costa Rica’s GDP,” Chang said. “Costa Rica has had no access to that market, but there’s not a single reason not to be there.” 

Ad Astra’s goal is to take the plasma engine to outer space by 2015. Chang said that “plenty of opportunities will happen” in 2016, the year he said investments could start paying off. 

Looking ahead, Chang said private companies could propel spacecraft with Ad Astra engines to collect space trash. Another possibility is helping to reduce the cost of maintaining the International Space Station in orbit. Currently, the station requires $280 million in fuel each year. VASIMIR engines could significantly reduce that cost, he said. 

“There are only two other companies that could be competition for us, and therefore they are always on our radar. Their technology is similar, though not equal to ours. Fortunately, no other company in the world has an operating 200-kilowatt engine like we do. But we are always watching the competition, and we will not let them reach the level we are at,” Chang said.

Interested investors should contact INS or Aldesa for more information.

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