Next-gen Ion engine twice as powerful and efficient

This isn’t really new, but it’s certainly awesome.

You read that right, an ion engine. It’s not just a science fiction trope, it’s a real thing. Ion engines produce very little force but can run continuously for extremely long times (like years), providing an aggregate thrust not achievable by traditional engines. They might as well be magical for as much as I understand them, and NASA has just upped the magic with their “NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster” or NEXT.

This new thruster produces 2.5 times the force of its predecessor (still only about enough to lift a sheet of paper off the ground) and has been running for 500 days straight, consuming 245kg of fuel. How awesome is that? With the capacity to work through 450kg total in their lifetime, NEXT engines could run for nearly three years nonstop. These things, they say, could power a mission to Saturn. Saturn, people.