The Space Propulsion Laboratory (SPL) houses experimental facilities to support research and educational programs for undergraduate and graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. SPL provides the infrastructure to support the Space Propulsion graduate field in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
The need to increase performance and reduce costs of space systems has caused a dynamic research environment in which advanced technologies are conceived and developed. A significant fraction of SPL's research is focused on the development and modeling of scalable space thrusters.
In electric propulsion, charged particles are produced and accelerated with electromagnetic fields to velocities much larger than with conventional rockets providing significant propellant savings. Because of this, most communication satellites and scientific missions are turning to this type of advanced propulsion. Electric propulsion allows people to explore in more detail the structure of the universe, increase the lifetime of commercial payloads and look for signs of life in far away places.
SPL has a strong program in both theoretical and experimental research in diverse types of propulsion systems and related technologies.