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When propelling a spacecraft into the cosmos, there are two main factors to consider: power and longevity. Most of NASA’s current missions prioritize power: getting to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and back doesn’t require an engine to push the spacecraft continuously forward for long, and the majority of NASA’s current work remains in LEO. In a move toward engines that supply gentler thrust for a longer time, NASA has recently awarded a $67 million contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop an advanced solar electric propulsion (SEP) system for rocket engines.

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