KentuckyFC writes "A NASA-funded test of an entirely new way to control orbiting satellites has ended with the prototype arcing dangerously and parts of the machine exploding. The new propulsion system is based on the Lorentz force: that a charged particle moving through a magnetic field experiences a force perpendicular to both its velocity and the field. So the plan is to ensure that a satellite passing though the Earth's magnetic field is electrically charged so as to generate a force that can be used to steer the spacecraft. The advantage of the idea is that it requires no propellant, which is a big deal since most satellites' lifespans are limited by the amount of fuel they can carry. But the first ground-based tests haven't gone entirely to plan."