The results of NASA’s tests on the ‘impossible’ EM Drive have been leaked, and they reveal that the controversial propulsion system really does work, and is capable of generating impressive thrust in a vacuum, even after error measurements have been accounted for.
The EM Drive has made headlines over the past year, because it offers the incredible possibility of a fuel-free propulsion system that could potentially get us to Mars in just 70 days. But there’s one major problem: according to the current laws of physics, it shouldn’t work.
The issue is the fact that the EM Drive defies Newton’s third law, which states that everything must have an equal and opposite reaction. So, according to Newton and our current understanding of the world around us, for a system to produce propulsion, it has to push something out the other way (in space, that’s usually combusted rocket fuel).
But the EM Drive works without any fuel or propellants at all. It works by simply bouncing microwave photons back and forth inside a cone-shaped closed metal cavity. That motion causes the ‘pointy end’ of the EM Drive to generate thrust, and propel the drive in the opposite direction.
Despite years of testing and debate, the drive remains controversial. The bottom line is that, on paper, it shouldn’t work, according to the laws of physics. And yet, in test after test, the EM Drive just keeps on working.
Last year, NASA’s Eagleworks Laboratory got involved to try to independently verify or debunk the EM Drive once and for all. And a new paper on its tests in late 2015 has just been leaked, showing that not only does the EM Drive work – it also generates some pretty impressive thrust.
To be clear, despite rumours that a NASA paper on these tests has passed the peer-review process, the version that’s been leaked hasn’t been published in an academic journal. So, for now, this is just one group of researchers reporting on their results, without any external verification.
But the paper concludes that, after error measurements have been accounted for, the EM Drive generates force of 1.2 millinewtons per kilowatt in a vacuum.