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Actually, It Is Rocket Science

A visit with Craig Kluever, Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

By LuAnne Roth
Published: - Topics: mission design research space travel NASA spacecraft

The Current Status of Electric Propulsion

Topics: spacecraft NASA

The first space mission to use electric propulsion was Deep Space I. Launched in 1998, it was a test mission for electric propulsion, one on which a lot of people worked to see the mission to success. “It had a very modest target,” Kluever says – basically just to fly by an asteroid – “and it was able to complete that mission.” Since then there have been some very big plans to send spacecraft to Jupiter or other outer planets using electric propulsion. “But the problem with electric propulsion (and NASA) is that these technologies cycle,” observes Kluever. “Sometimes they’re politically in favor and sometimes not. Right now they’re out of favor,” largely due to budgetary restraints.