New Thrust for Solar Electric Propulsion

NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) has developed a 7-kW ion thruster that can provide the capabilities needed in the future. Credits: NASA

NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) has developed a 7-kW ion thruster that can provide the capabilities needed in the future. Credits: NASA

Harnessing the power of the Sun to provide thrust for transport in space has long been a part of science fiction imagery. Now a reality after decades of development, it has found increasing use for applications ranging from station-keeping to orbit-raising. Obstacles remain, but evolving technology should enable expanding applications of this weight-saving form of energy, possibly even for manned spaceflight.

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