Scientist, businessman and former NASA astronaut Dr. Franklin Chang holding a press a conference on the Recope situation.

QCOSTARICA – Ad Astra Rocket Company, the rocket company by former astronaut and physicist Dr. Franklin Chang, working on the project to produce hydrogen for use as fuel in vehicles, has broken ties with the state refinery, the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo (Recope).

Chang made the announcement on Wednesday, tired of waiting on the state company to provide answers.

Thursday morning the president of Recope, Sara Salazar, said the state company wants to stick with the plan, but is not sure if it can do so, because hydrogen is not within the scope of Recope’s mandate.

Chang said yesterday that hydrogen is a hydrocarbon, although there are those who do not believe so.

The question arose from a report by the Comptroller (Contraloría General de la República – CGR) on biofuels, which, according to Chang, has nothing to do with hydrogen.

The Comptroller said yesterday that it has not issued any report on the Recope agreement with Ad Astra.

Recope has already invested US$2.1 million dollars in the project, that includes a plant in Liberia, Guanacaste, which produces high purity hydrogen. The last phase (C2) of the project that would start using the product in vehicles, is expected to take another 22 months. For this phase, an additional investment of US$2.3 million is required.

However, after waiting for seven months on an answer from Recope, on whether to do or last phase, and now the question if in fact the state company can be involved in a non oil based project, led Ad Astra to break relations with Recope on March 3.

“After more than seven months of waiting, Ad Astra … has decided to withdraw from its relations with … Recope in the development of hydrogen technology for transport due to the lack of execution by Recope in fulfillment of the final phase of the project,” said the company.

President Luis Guillermo Solís (L) with Franklin Chang (R) visiting the Ad Astra offices in Guanacaste.
President Luis Guillermo Solís (L) with Franklin Chang (R) visiting the Ad Astra offices in Guanacaste.

Chang said that in private enterprise we understand “no” and “yes,” but may not be in waiting, because that entails costs, which the company has to cover.

The scientist and businessman said he believes that there is fear of making mistakes and therefore the board of Recope has not decided on the project.

What I have noticed is that there is fear of making mistakes,” said Chang, concluding that the legal issues “a little silly“.

Chang, a national hero in Costa Rica, said that the country has the resources to replace all the vehicles with hydrogen.

He explained that the product is produced in different ways, for example, solar energy or pineapple waste. In this way, the country would be free of oil imports and could reach the goal of being carbon neutral by 2021.

Ad Astra
The Ad Astra Rocket Company Costa Rica (AARC CR) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ad Astra Rocket Company,  an American rocket propulsion company dedicated to the development of advanced plasma rocket propulsion technology, located in Webster, Texas,

AARC CR was formed in 2005. The facility is located approximately 10 km west of the city of Liberia, Guanacaste, on the campus of EARTH University. On December 13, 2006, the Costa Rican team of AARC generated its first plasma.  After extensive testing of a 200 kW ground-test VASIMR unit, the company is aiming for a three-year flight test mission.

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