Researchers developing advanced propulsion systems for missions to distant planets will soon have a new space.

Seeking to improve space travel while slashing its cost, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center began contruction of its Propulsion Research Laboratory — a 108,000 square foot facility on a 21-acre site in Huntsville, Ala. — with a groundbreaking ceremony today.

The laboratory, which should be completed by April 2004, will conduct research into solar energy, chemical propulsion, fission, fusion and antimatter.