The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that their initial testing of new plasma engines for spacecraft has been a success. The drive works by speeding up charged particles between layers of argon plasma.

The agency will now be going ahead with simulations and are contemplating the possibility of bigger prototypes. The plasma engine is far less powerful than the current chemical engine, but can operate for much longer.

Dr Roger Walker from the ESA said: "Essentially the concept exploits a natural phenomenon we see taking place in space," and then compared the process to what happens when a solar wind hits the Earth's magnetic field.