Hacked Magazine reported on Monday that a group of German scientists believe that they have confirmed that the EM Drive, the propulsion device that uses microwaves rather than rocket fuel, provides thrust. The experimental results are being presented at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Propulsion and Energy Forum in Orlando by Martin Tajmar, a professor and chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology. Tajmar has an interest in exotic propulsion methods, including one concept using “negative matter.”
The EM Drive excited great interest in the media and controversy in the scientific community when NASA’s Eagleworks, a lab located at the Johnson Spaceflight Center in Houston led by Dr. Harold “Sonny” White, began to get positive experimental results from a test article. The EM Drive was invented by Robert Shawyer, a British aerospace engineer.
Until NASA took an interest in the EM Drive, it was considered impossible since it seemed to violate the well know principle of the conservation of momentum. Even after the experimental results from NASA, many scientists and some in the media have maintained that whatever thrust was happening must be from experimental error. However, with the results confirmed in a German lab with an impeccable reputation for catching such experimental errors, the scientific community may have to think again.
How does the EM Drive work? Tajmar is unsure, but White theorizes that, “the EM Drive’s thrust is due to virtual particles in the quantum vacuum that behave like propellant ions in magneto-hydrodynamical propulsion systems, extracting ‘fuel’ from the very fabric of space-time and eliminating the need to carry propellant.” The NASA Spaceflight site has proven to be an invaluable meeting place for experts and laypeople to analyze and debate all aspects of the EM Drive.
It looks like that, once scientists understand what is happening with the EM Drive, physics textbooks are going to have to be rewritten. More importantly, if the device can be scaled up, it will revolutionize space travel.
Despite some hyperventilating in the media, the EM Drive is not the Star Trek warp drive, it will not propel a spacecraft faster than light. It is more akin to the starship Enterprise’s impulse drive. But, that alone could open up the solar system to exploration as no other technology could do. Round trips to Mars in less than a year or expeditions to the moons of Saturn with round trips times of 32 months pass from the realm of fantasy to possible future reality.
New Horizons took over nine years to get to Pluto. A spacecraft using an EM Drive would get there in 18 months, orbit Pluto, and drop a lander on its surface, according to Wired. Think on that when looking at the images of the dwarf planet at the edge of the solar system.