NASA Tests Controversial EmDrive Propulsion


Invented by Roger Shawyer, the EmDrive is a theoretical propulsion system that supposedly could propel objects to near-relativistic speeds. However, the system is being met with much skepticism as it seems to clearly violate the laws of physics. Shawyer explains that it works by repeatedly bouncing microwaves back and forth in a chamber with the idea of creating a propellant-less thruster that can move a spacecraft at extraordinary speeds if enough pressure is applied. He claims that it could gain 3 tons of thrust with 1 kilowatt of power input by essentially moving the particles around the chamber of the thruster in a vacuum.

The EmDrive has recently gained more credibility after the NASA Spaceflight site published an article claiming that it is in fact real. They claim that in their experiment, 10 kilowatts of power produced 0.00061183 tons of force which is much less than Shawyer predicted but at least provides some sort of confirmation that something was in fact going on inside the chamber.

The EmDrive system dates back 15 years, and Shawyer had even less support then than he does now. He sought out investors in the United States and Britain but didn't find a ton of well-heeled believers, and by 2008, he was already going abroad for investors. In 2009 he decided to move to China, where he received backing from one scientist, Prof. Juan Yang, who claimed that it worked.

Not only did Shawyer receive little support in his idea, he was also met with ridicule from various outlets. Sci-fi writer Greg Egan was ... not a fan. Responding to the claim that EmDrive could produce thrust with a small amount of influence from microwaves, Corey Powell at Discover pointed out in August 2014 that the idea is riddled with holes. That write-up followed a slew of headlines declaring that NASA had verified the EmDrive. The reality was closer to a NASA engineer shrugging and saying "oh, that's neat."

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