The “anomalous” or “impossible” space propulsion system EmDrive has been often in the news in the last few months. First, the rumor – then confirmed – that the latest experimental results of the NASA Eagleworks team will be published in December in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)’s Journal of Propulsion and Power, a prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Then a select, invitation-only three-day workshop in Colorado, the Estes Park Advanced Propulsion Workshop organized by the Space Studies Institute (SSI), featured presentations by NASA Eagleworks scientist Paul March and Prof. Martin Tajmar, chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology, who last year presented an independent confirmation of the anomalous EmDrive thrust.
First proposed by Satellite Propulsion Research, a research company based in the UK founded by aerospace engineer Roger Shawyer, the EmDrive concept was predictably scorned by much of the mainstream research community for allegedly violating the laws of physics, including the conservation of momentum. However, recent studies indicate that the apparently missing momentum could be explained, without violating fundamental conservation laws, by new theoretical models.
The Estes Park Workshop had a special focus on James Woodward’s “Mach Effect” (aka “Woodward Effect“) Drive. According to a study presented at the Workshop, the anomalous EmDrive effect could be related to the exotic physics behind the Mach/Woodward effect and the Hoyle/Narlikar theory of gravitation.
Previously, NASA Eagleworks leader Dr. Harold G. “Sonny” White had proposed that the EmDrive’s thrust could be due to virtual particles in the quantum vacuum that behave like propellant ions in magneto-hydrodynamical propulsion systems, extracting “fuel” from the very fabric of space-time and eliminating the need to carry propellant. While a number of scientists criticized White’s theoretical model, others felt that he was at least pointing to the right direction.
Patent Application: Superconducting Microwave Radiation Thruster
Now, the UK Intellectual Property Office has released the latest EmDrive patent application from Shawyer, titled “Superconducting microwave radiation thruster.” The patent application describes a new thruster design with a single flat superconducting plate on one end, and a uniquely shaped, non-conducting plate on the other end.
“The patent process is a very significant process, it’s not like an academic peer review where everyone hides behind an anonymous review, it’s all out in the open,” said Shawyer, as reported by International Business Times. “This is a proper, professional way of establishing prior ownership done by professionals in the patent office, and in order to publish my patent application, they had to first carry out a thorough examination of the physics in order to establish that the invention does not contravene the laws of physics.”
There’s millions of pounds at stake on this particular patent.
Shawyer, who has already been granted three EmDrive-related patents, has also another patent application in process.
New Superconducting EmDrive Thruster Technology Under Development
According to Shawyer, the second generation of EmDrive will produce thrust much higher than that observed by Eagleworks and other labs. In a paper titled titled “Second generation EmDrive propulsion applied to SSTO launcher and interstellar probe,” published in December 2015 in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Astronautica, Shawyer touched on the world-changing implications:
Second generation EmDrive offers the best solution for low cost access to space, and for a near term interstellar mission.
Shawyer’s EmDrive website claims that development work is continuing on superconducting EmDrive thruster technology in co-operation with a UK aerospace company.
No details of this work can be divulged at present.
The video below, a slide presentation narrated by Shawyer, explains the basic science behind EmDrive.
Images from Wikimedia Commons and Nick Breeze. Video from Roger Shawyer and Nick Breeze.