NASA has been developing an engine that doesn’t run on traditional propellant, while not even using a traditional rocket engine. If plans go accordingly, the engine will have twice as much thrust and would be 10 times for cost effective than chemical engines.
Since the fuel efficiency is much improved on this system, sending capsules into deep space would now be that much easier. In addition, these features have made it an attractive candidate to get people to mars and back quicker, which is very important, since the time it would take astronauts to get to Mars today would be very risky, since they would be exposed to radiation from the sun for too long.
This gorgeous blue glow is caused by a certain type of thruster. Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) works by using Hall thrusters. These thrusters trap electrons into a magnetic field and then ionize the propellant using these trapped electrons. The most common propellant used for Hall thrusters is Xenon. Using Xenon, the thrusters are able to accelerate their exhaust up to 50 miles per second.
Sometime before 2020, NASA plans to put the SEP system to test, by launching a spacecraft using this technology. If it succeeds, the future of space travel in the very near future could be based off of using this type of propulsion.