The grand opening of NASA?s new, world-class laboratory for research into future space transportation technologies located at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama, took place in July 2004. The state-of-the-art Propulsion Research Laboratory (PRL) serves as a leading national resource for advanced space propulsion research. Its purpose is to conduct research that will lead to the creation and development of innovative propulsion technologies for space exploration. The facility is the epicenter of the effort to move the U.S. space program beyond the confines of conventional chemical propulsion into an era of greatly improved access to space and rapid transit throughout the solar system. The laboratory is designed to accommodate researchers from across the United States, including scientists and engineers from NASA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, universities, and industry. The facility, with 66,000 square feet of useable laboratory space, features a high degree of experimental capability. Its flexibility allows it to address a broad range of propulsion technologies and concepts, such as plasma, electromagnetic, thermodynamic, and propellant propulsion. An important area of emphasis is the development and utilization of advanced energy sources, including highly energetic chemical reactions, solar energy, and processes based on fission, fusion, and antimatter. The Propulsion Research Laboratory is vital for developing the advanced propulsion technologies needed to open up the space frontier, and sets the stage of research that could revolutionize space transportation for a broad range of applications.