NASA's Physics-Defying Electromagnetic Drive May Work in Space

Thursday, 30 April 2015 - 10:40AM
Space
Technology
Physics
Thursday, 30 April 2015 - 10:40AM
NASA's Physics-Defying Electromagnetic Drive May Work in Space
Last year, NASA stirred up some controversy in the scientific community when they announced their seemingly impossible electromagnetic drive, which could allow vehicles to move without the expulsion of propellant and at near-relativistic speeds. Now, an engineer at NASA Eagleworks has reported that he has successfully tested the EM drive in a space-like hard vacuum, indicating that the futuristic engine may be able to work in space.

When NASA first proposed the engine, it seemed to many to defy the laws of physics and the law of the conservation of momentum. According to NASA, the engine would directly convert electromagnetic energy into thrust by colliding microwaves within a closed container, bypassing the need for propellant. But physicists criticized this model on the grounds that the expulsion of propellant is necessary in order to balance the spacecraft's momentum during acceleration. 

Then, there was a test last year that demonstrated the engine was capable of thrust, but it wasn't conducted in a vacuum. Detractors argued that it wouldn't work in a hard vacuum because the apparent thrust may have been the result of external factors, such as thermal convection.

Now, according to NASA Spaceflight, NASA Eagleworks engineer Paul March completed a test of the drive in a vacuum. It was successful, indicating that, contrary to popular wisdom, thermal convection is not necessary for thrust, and as a result this engine may very well function properly for a spacecraft.

NASA Spaceflight has investigated the results, and finds them to be compelling, at the very least. "The NASASpaceflight.com group has given consideration to whether the experimental measurements of thrust force were the result of an artifact. Despite considerable effort within the NASASpaceflight.com forum to dismiss the reported thrust as an artifact, the EM Drive results have yet to be falsified.

After consistent reports of thrust measurements from EM Drive experiments in the US, UK, and China – at thrust levels several thousand times in excess of a photon rocket, and now under hard vacuum conditions – the question of where the thrust is coming from deserves serious inquiry."


Although NASA Spaceflight has not been able to falsify the results, they still have not been officially peer reviewed, let alone accepted by the scientific community. But even so, this could potentially represent a huge step forward in spaceflight, not only because eliminating the need for propellant would drastically cut down on costs, but because the theoretical speeds of this engine could take us on missions to the Moon, Mars, or even further into the reaches of space.

Via io9.
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NASA's Physics-Defying Electromagnetic Drive May Work in Space

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