NASA's futuristic EM Drive may allow 'warp speed' space travel

NASA's new engine design appears possible after a recent test.
By Kathy Fey | Apr 30, 2015
Engineers at NASA have been developing a groundbreaking engine design that would allow for unprecedented travel speeds in space. According to The Verge, the new engine, called the EM Drive, would be able to travel to Mars in only 10 weeks and would not require rocket fuel. The engine's designers have been puzzling over whether their calculations may be in error, as thethrust to be attained by the EM Drive seems impossible by the laws of physics. Recent test results, however,are ruling out the hypothesis that there is such an error.

The theory behind the drive's design is that the engine can create thrusting force by bouncing electromagnetic microwaves around inside a chamber and transferring some of the energy to a reflector to create the thrust. This method would convert electrical energy into thrust without the need for expelling any propellant.

Prior tests on the EM drive were not conducted in a vacuum, and as such, it was hypothesized by many that the unexpected results indicating thrust force were in fact due to natural thermal convection currents caused by microwave heating.

According to NASASpaceflight, "NASA has successfully tested their EM Drive in a hard vacuum the first time any organization has reported such a successful test." The test results rule out the possibility that thrust measurements were affected by thermal convection originating outside the engine. The performance of the engine in a vacuum mimicked how it might behave in practical application in space.

More tests are needed to verify the veracity of the EM Drive's design as an effective propulsion device. If the drive makes it to production, it could have an enormous impact on space travel, requiring less weight to be lifted during launch and increasing the speed of spacecraft.

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