The European Space Agency is entering into the design phase for a fleet of solar electric telecommunication satellites after signing a $16 million one-year contract with satellite operator SES and manufacturer OHB AG. Solar electric propulsion is an established, more efficient alternative to chemical or nuclear fission-powered propulsion that can move a satellite to a specific location above Earth and then hold it there. The satellites will require up to 90 percent less chemical propellant by weight, making them lighter and less expensive to carry into space. NASA is considering using solar electric propulsion to send a spacecraft to Mars.

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