NASA's Idea For an 'EmDrive' Thruster Which Runs Without Any Fuel is Looking Impossible

Friday, 25 May 2018 - 6:37PM
Space
Technology
NASA
Friday, 25 May 2018 - 6:37PM
NASA's Idea For an 'EmDrive' Thruster Which Runs Without Any Fuel is Looking Impossible
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Flickr/Jedimentat44
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: an engine which could power a spacecraft without any fuel, relying simply on the vacuum of space to power it.

Well, it sounds like the stuff of science fiction because, according to our understanding of physics, it is the stuff of science fiction, at least for now. For a while, a team at NASA Eagleworks (a lab within NASA's Johnson Space Center) have been promoting an "EmDrive", a hypothetical spacecraft engine that could convert electromagnetic energy directly into thrust, just by colliding microwaves together in a small, cone-shaped chamber.

While it's been known to violate many conventional laws of physics, Eagleworks has still been convinced of its legitimacy, posting a peer-reviewed study a couple years ago claiming they'd seen an anomalous thrust. While that's a good sign, some new research by a team of scientists at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany indicates that there were likely some outside variables behind that anomaly.



According to their new study, they put together a model EmDrive to test it inside a vacuum chamber. While those tests went well, and this EmDrive did produce a thrust, it became apparent that the thrust was happening due to the engine interacting with Earth's own magnetic field

Since the whole point is that the engine works in space, an EmDrive that can only work on Earth isn't of much help, and it's likely that Earth's magnetic field could have impacted the Eagleworks study from before. So far, no laws of physics have been shattered for a miraculous new space engine. 




However, this likely won't be the final word on the EmDrive either. Since it would make space travel enormously cheaper and easier if we no longer have to worry about fuel supplies, the aerospace industry and NASA are still going to be looking into it. 

But if it is possible, we haven't found a way to do it just yet.
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