AB360 rendering of a hybrid chemical and electric propulsion engine designed to shorten interplanetary journeys.

Propulsion company AB360 Space is coming to the United States. The startup established by Ali Baghchehsara, a former Airbus director and cybersecurity firm founder, aims to combine elements of electric and chemical engines to improve engine thrust and efficiency for interplanetary journeys.

Ali Baghchehsara, founder of AB360 Space.

With existing technology, a trip from Earth to Mars would take about six months. “We are aiming to reduce that trip to 38 days,” Baghchehsara told SpaceNews.

Currently, AB360 Space is testing a prototype of its patent-pending Combined Liquid electric Propulsion System, CLePS, in Sweden. Swedish Space Corp. is providing the firm with testing facilities and fuel, under a memorandum of understanding.

“We are using this infrastructure to get the concept proven,” Baghchehsara said. “Once I know the concept works, I will be moving to the United States and launching the company.”

Although Baghchehsara is only 28, this would not be his first startup. After building a jet engine as a teenager in Iran, Baghchehsara moved to Germany where he earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering and is pursuing a Ph.D. in cognitive systems and artificial intelligence. He was named an Airbus director at 25. When he left Airbus, Baghchehsara founded LISA Group, a government cybersecurity contractor.

As a young man growing up in Iran, Baghchehsara saw little opportunity to pursue his passion for propulsion. Since recently becoming a German citizen, he is eager to return to the technology he first explored in his 2014 book, “Electric Space: Space-based Solar Power Technologies & Applications.”

Baghchehsara is providing initial financing for AB360 Space.

“My intention is to prove that the concept works,” Baghchehsara said. “I hate going to investor meetings where they ask if I’m sure it’s going to work. I want to show them proof.” AB360 Space plans to begin electrical testing of CLePS in September, followed by Hot Fire testing of electrical and chemical systems in November. Once that testing is completed, Baghchehsara plans to move the company to Colorado and begin looking for investors.

“So much capital is available in the market today,” Baghchehsara said. “It’s a great time to be alive.”

This article originally appeared in the August 2021 issue of SpaceNews magazine.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...