Spacecraft traveling through miles of space require energy to keep moving. Ion propulsion engines can help to minimize the bulkiness of fuel, allowing for increased scientific exploration in smaller packages.
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The space agency's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) project completed a continuous test the ion engine for more than 48,000 hours — over five and a half years — longer than any other space propulsion system ever tested. With low fuel weight and long-running efficiency, ion engines have become strong contenders for deep space missions.
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