NASA engine to revolutionize space travel, well maybe.

Until recently you probably haven’t heard of Roger Shawyer’s EmDrive engine and there is a reason for that, almost every physicist was laughing at it; until now. It’s been dubbed the impossible engine because it goes against classical mechanics but the fact is that the quantum vacuum plasma thruster has just passed its first test by NASA.

Shawyer’s engine is extremely light and simple. It provides a thrust by “bouncing microwaves around in a closed container.” The microwaves are generated using electricity that can be provided by solar energy. No propellant is necessary, which means that this thrusters can work forever unless there is a hardware failure.

The EmDrive
The EmDrive

So the fact that it violates a law of nature and had never been built meant that it really was just a laughable idea; that was until a Chinese team built one in 2009. They even tested it and got 720 milli-Newtons which is enough to build a satellite thruster and that may not sound like big news but currently around 40% of a satellites mass is fuel and as stated earlier these engines would pretty much run forever!

Now a NASA team has built their own called “CANNAE” and managed to get a modest 30 to 50 micro-newtons which is dramatically less than the Chinese version but still a positive result for something that shouldn’t exist. The only real question now is not how awesome this is and how this will revolutionize space travel but how can this engine even work!

I’m personally very hopefully that these engines are the real deal as anything that can make space travel cheaper and more efficient is fantastic but you have to ask yourself, what is more likely; that we have managed to build an engine that defies the laws of physics or that there is an error in the data / experiment.

Fingers crossed i’m wrong but it wouldn’t be the first time we got it wrong, anyone remember the faster-than-light neutrinos fiasco?

Stay curious – C.Costigan


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