coondoggie quotes a report from Network World: NASA this week took a giant step toward using solar electric power for future space missions by awarding a $67 million contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop an advanced electric propulsion system. Network World writes, "Specifically, Aerojet Rocketdyne will develop and deliver an integrated electric propulsion system -- known as the Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) -- consisting of a thruster, power processing unit (PPU), low-pressure xenon flow controller, and electrical harness. Such a system would deploy large solar arrays that can be used to convert sunlight into electrical power that ionizes atoms of xenon which is the propellant for the spacecraftâ(TM)s thrusters. In addition, such a power plant could potentially increase spaceflight fuel efficiency by 10 times over current chemical propulsion technology and more than double thrust capability compared to current electric propulsion systems, NASA said." NASA's plan is to use this propulsion system on its future Asteroid Redirect Mission, as well as on its mission to Mars.