Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Report: NASA scientists to publish an EM drive paper in a peer reviewed journal

EM drive could send spacecraft to any destination in the solar system without propellant

According to a piece in the International Business Times UK, a team at NASA’s Eagle Works, a lab at the Johnson Spaceflight Center, has a paper on the so-called EM drive accepted for publication in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Journal of Propulsion and Power. The story cites Dr. Jose Rodal as a source for the news. The report has yet to be confirmed by either the AIAA or #NASA. If the statement is verified, that means that one of the most controversial developments in aerospace technology has passed peer review with profound implications for #Space travel.

The drive is the brainchild of a British engineer named Roger Shawyer back toward the beginning of this century. The idea is that bouncing microwaves in an enclosed space will make thrust, creating an engine that runs on an electrical source such as solar panels or a nuclear generator and does not need propellant. If such an engine could be built and made to work, spacecraft would be able to fly to any destination in the solar system in far less time that it would take with even the most advanced propulsion methods. Moreover, the spacecraft would not need to carry large amounts of propellant, just the engine and power source, and would be able to accelerate, in theory, indefinitely.

To say that the idea of an EM drive has been met with skepticism by the scientific community would be to put the matter mildly. The EM drive would appear to violate a fundamental law of physics that states that momentum cannot be achieved without equal and opposite momentum. However, versions of the drive have been tested in Houston, Great Britain, China, and most recently Germany with experimental error and other outside causes being ruled out, at least so far. Moreover, Dr. Mike McCulloch of Plymouth University and Dr. Arto Annila from the University of Helsinki have suggested that the EM drive could work using advanced physic. The idea is that the drive creates a stream of photons that delivers thrust but cannot be easily detected.

A peered reviewed paper published in a respected journal by a team of NASA scientists would give the EM drive a measure of respectability it has hitherto not enjoyed. The evidence that the EM drive might actually work may shake loose some more funding for experiments and, in the fullness of time, flight tests,

Of course, lots of work and time remains before people are voyaging to Mars in 10 weeks or conducting the even more exciting missions to the outer planets that the EM drive may make possible. Just because the drive may work in a lab does not necessarily mean it will work on a scale large enough to drive a spacecraft. But the world may be one step closer to achieving a breakthrough that could bring the solar system within easy reach of human and robotic explorers.