Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

An 'impossible' rocket could get us to the Moon in 4 hours

emdrive.jpg


There's a problem with space. It's too big.

Everything mankind wants to visit, from the Moon, to Mars, to Kepler-452b, is a long way away. It either costs us millions to reach our "near" neighbours, or billions to look at them through a telescope. 

But the dreams of Star Trek fans the world over may soon be realised, with the announcement that a high-speed rocket system previously thought impossible, might actually work.

Back in 2001, a British engineer Roger Shawyer and UK company Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd came up with the proposal for an electromagnetic propulsion drive - or EM Drive. Their theoretical invention (which you can read about in full here) turned solar energy into microwaves.

So far, so GCSE-level Physics. The significant aspect of Shawyer's proposal involved the way in which the microwaves were contained in an enclosed unit: as the microwaves push against the enclosed chamber, it would create thrust in the opposite direction. Which sounds fair enough - except that it defies the accepted laws of physics. In the 'conservation of momentum', if something moves in one direction, something else is being pushed in the opposite direction. The microwaves clashing about inside an enclosed chamber would just cancel each other out.



The scientific community laughed at Shawyer's proposals, and most went back to "proper" ideas that worked inside accepted laws... until a group of Chinese scientists had a go at building their own, and found it was producing "thrust". Then an American made one, and gave it to NASA to test. And now, Martin Tajmar, a professor and chair for Space Systems at Germany's Dresden University of Technology, has made another one

Engine

What's so odd about the EM Drive is that there still isn't an adequate understanding of how it does what it does - but it's hugely exciting that different teams keep producing "working" models. The drive is capable of producing a huge amount of thrust in comparison to its size - an order of magnitude greater than the rockets groups like SpaceX is currently using

In theory, a EM Drive could power a ship to the Moon in four hours and reach Mars in a matter of days, with no solid fuel other than solar energy. If it works.

"Our test campaign cannot confirm or refute the claims of the EM Drive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurements methods used so far," said Professor Tajmar.

"Nevertheless, we do observe thrust close to the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena."

So what now? Well, Tajmar's findings will need to be subject to a peer review, which could be tricky given the growing scepticism of a number of scientists. There could be problems with the manner in which the levels of thrust are being detected, and indeed that there could be some other level of subatomic physics at play. But there's a chance, just a chance, that we might be close to understanding a technology that will take us to the stars.

Related

ozo2.jpg

Nokia wants you to make virtual reality films with its new camera

windows.png

The 5 best bits of Windows 10

google.jpg

Google Will Now Tell You When To Avoid A Busy Bar

nexus.jpg

A major Android security flaw would let hackers in with a text

phone3.jpg

The best smartphone you've never heard of

Eye.JPG

The places you can and can't use selfie sticks in the UK

Comments

More

Apple has patented a new laptop chassis which is powered by your phone

Is this the future of laptops?

by Dave Fawbert
27 Mar 2017

Leaked poster appears to confirm Destiny 2 release date

And it sounds like they're doing a beta in June

by Matt Tate
23 Mar 2017

Android users can finally play Super Mario Run - and definitely should

Extended toilet breaks for everyone

by Matt Tate
23 Mar 2017

Apple have released a red iPhone and that is very important

And not just because it's red

by Gary Ogden
21 Mar 2017

Amazon's new Alexa update means it can bring you beer in two hours

"Alexa, we're going to need more booze"

by Matt Tate
21 Mar 2017

Forget traffic jams with this SUV that can drive over cars

Why has it taken so long to invent this?

by Dave Fawbert
21 Mar 2017

Zelda megafan controls his smart home with an ocarina

Pointless? Possibly. Are we envious? Definitely

by Matt Tate
20 Mar 2017

Why I pray every day for an 'SSX Tricky' remake

It's all about that Big Air Bonus

by Matt Tate
17 Mar 2017

Soon you'll be able to steal your mate's phone battery to charge your

"Oh come on, mate, I've only got 4%"

by Gary Ogden
17 Mar 2017

How to cheat your way to victory in 'Mario Kart 64'

Anyone fancy digging the old N64 out again?

by Matt Tate
17 Mar 2017