It turns out NASA is taking EM Drive seriously and has already commenced tests to realise a practical engine that will pave way for zero propellant space missions in future. Results of one such tests were leaked on the web.
According to the leaked paper, NASA scientists at the Johnson Spaceflight Center’s Eagleworks lab conducted EM Drive tests and believe that the prototype is capable of generating 1.2 millinewtons of force for every kilowatt of energy put into it and the results are not due to experimental error. The output effectively puts the EM Drive prototype between a Hall thruster, which is a kind of plasma rocket that produces 60 millinewtons per kilowatt and a solar sail which catches 6.67 micro newtons of force, either from sunlight or a laser.
Because the whole concept violates laws of physics, scientists and physicists have been calling the results as experimental error; however, scientists at Eagleworks believe that their findings are not the results of experimental error. Furthermore, some researchers in both Finland and Great Britain have posited theories of how the EM drive will work according to the laws of physics.
Roger Shawyer, the inventor of the EM drive, has patented a new version of the engine that he claims is much more powerful and creates orders of magnitude more thrust. Guido Fetta, the inventor of a similar device called the Cannae drive, has announced his intention to test his engine in Space.
So what are the implications of having a working EM Drive at our disposal. First and foremost is the ability to go on prolonged space missions to much farther celestial destinations. Also, because the spacecrafts wouldn’t need to carry propellant, more scientific instruments can be fitted on them to carry out more advanced research.
Further, once EM Drive is fully realised, the flight time to Mars and other planets will be reduced to weeks or months instead of months and years. Human space flights would be much easier and faster and destinations like Europa or Titan or Enceladus won’t seem to be far and will effectively be within our reach.
Scientists are considering testing EM Drive into space by fitting an engine in a cubesat and sending it to space – may be in Moon’s orbit or to an asteroid. Check out the paper here.