A controversial design for a new, advanced type of space travel received a boost as German scientists confirmed that it does in fact work. The EMDrive propulsion system would permit travel at speeds only seen in science fiction. When the concept was first proposed by the British inventor Roger Shawyer nearly 15 years ago it was ridiculed as being scientifically impossible because it went against the laws of physics. But subsequent tests – further backed up by this announcement – have shown that the idea could indeed revolutionize space travel.
Researchers say the new drive could carry passengers and their equipment to the moon in as little as four hours, or to Mars in just 70 days. A trip to Alpha Centauri, which would take tens of thousands of years to reach right now, could be reached in just 100 years. The system is based on electromagnetic drive, or EMDrive, which converts electrical energy into thrust without the need for rocket fuel.
Martin Tajmar, professor and chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology, presented his work at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Propulsion and Energy Forum in Orlando yesterday, July 27th. “Our measurements reveal thrusts as expected from previous claims after carefully studying thermal and electromagnetic interferences,” wrote Tajmar. “If true, this could certainly revolutionize space travel.”
Contrary to sensationalist reports that have been published, the EMDrive is not a “warp drive” for faster than light travel. It could, however, according to current experimental evidence, be a revolutionary development for faster and cheaper space transportation.
While there has been some skepticism surrounding the EMDrive, in April NASA released results of their own test which showed that the EMDrive did in fact create thrust. According to classical physics, the EMDrive should be impossible because it seems to violate the law of conservation of momentum. The law states that the momentum of a system is constant if there are no external forces acting on the system – which is why propellant is required in traditional rockets.
Researchers from the US, UK and China have demonstrated EMDrives over the past few decades, but their results have been controversial as no one has been exactly sure how it works. But earlier this year, Nasa built an EMDrive that works in conditions like those in space, according to users on forum NasaSpaceFlight.com.
The concept of an EMDrive engine is relatively simple. It provides thrust to a spacecraft by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container. Solar energy provides the electricity to power the microwaves, which means that no propellant is needed. The implications for this are staggering. For instance, current satellites could be half the size they are today without the need to carry fuel. Humans could also travel further into space, generating their own propulsion on the way.
However scientists still have no idea how it actually works. NASA suggested that it could have something to do with the technology manipulating subatomic particles which constantly pop in and out of existence in empty space.
Nasa’s official site says that, “There are many ‘absurd’ theories that have become reality over the years of scientific research.”