Satellites and spacecraft moving in an orbit or in interplanetary space use propulsion systems that utilise the principle of conservation of momentum to provide thrust. Typical in-space propulsion systems convert the chemical energy stored in the on-board propellant into kinetic energy. Propulsion systems that use other sources of energy (batteries, solar panels, radioactive sources of energy, nuclear reactors, etc) are being developed as an alternative to the standard space propulsion systems. Because in these alternative propulsion systems the energy carried by the vehicle is not limited to the energy stored in the propellants’ chemical bonds, these types of propulsion systems can provide higher levels of impulse for the same amount of propellant, or can accomplish certain missions with a lesser amount of propellant.

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