"The maturity of the various technologies that make up electric propulsion is getting there," said Vlad Hruby, president of the Busek spacecraft engine company. Hruby said he's been waiting for a renaissance in electric spacecraft for about 20 years. "Now it's finally coming to fruition."
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While still not as common as traditional chemical spacecraft engines, electric engines are growing in popularity for both Earth-orbiting satellites and scientific spacecraft on missions to deep space. And electric engines could turn out to be a key element in NASA's goal of sending people to Mars, experts say.
In 2012, Boeing introduced an all-electric communications satellite design called the 702SP, which officials say has been popular with commercial clients. In April of this year, satellite builder Orbital Sciences said it's developing its own all-electric model to compete. [Electric Vehicles to Explore Deep Space (Photo Gallery)]
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