Monday, November 2, 2015

In a new round of testing, NASA confirms yet again that the 'impossible' EMdrive thruster works

Engineer Roger Shawyer’s controversial EM Drive thruster jets back into relevancy this week, as a team of researchers at NASA’s Eagleworks Laboratories recently completed yet another round of testing on the seemingly impossible tech. Though no official peer-reviewed lab paper has been published yet, and NASA institutes strict press release restrictions on the Eagleworks lab these days, engineer Paul March took to the NASA Spaceflight forum to explain the group’s findings. In essence, by utilizing an improved experimental procedure, the team managed to mitigate some of the errors from prior tests — yet still found signals of unexplained thrust.

Isaac Newton should be sweating.

Flying in the face of traditional laws of physics, the EM Drive makes use of a magnetron and microwaves to create a propellantless propulsion system. By pushing microwaves into a closed, truncated cone and back towards the small end of said cone, the drive creates the momentum and force necessary to propel a craft forward. Because the system is a reactionless drive, it goes against humankind’s fundamental comprehension of physics, hence its controversial nature.

On the NASA spaceflight forums, March revealed as much as he could about the advancements that have been made with EM Drive and its relative technology. After apologizing for not having the ability to share pictures or the supporting data from a peer-reviewed lab paper, he starts by explaining (as straightforward as rocket science can get) that the Eagleworks lab successfully built and installed a 2nd generation magnetic damper which helps reduce stray magnetic fields in a vacuum chamber. The addition reduced magnetic fields by an order of magnitude inside the chamber, and also decreased Lorentz force interactions.

However, despite ruling out Lorentz forces almost entirely, March still reported a contamination caused by thermal expansion. Unfortunately, this reported contamination proves even worse in a vacuum (i.e. outer space) due in large part to its inherently high level of insulation. To combat this, March acknowledged the team is now developing an advanced analytics tool to assist in the separation of the contamination, as well as an integrated test which aims to alleviate thermally induced errors altogether.

While these advancements and additions are no doubt a boon for continued research of the EM Drive, the fact that the machine still produced what March calls “anomalous thrust signals” is by far the test’s single biggest discovery. The reason why this thrust exists still confounds even the brightest rocket scientists in the world, but the recurring phenomenon of direction-based momentum does make the EM Drive appear less a combination of errors and more like a legitimate answer to interstellar travel.

At this time, it’s unknown when Eagleworks Laboratories intends to officially publish its peer-reviewed paper, however, hearing of the EM Drive’s advancements from one of its top engineers bodes well for the future of this fascinating tech.