Skip to main content

NASA's EmDrive thruster just took an important leap forward

The dream of the EmDrive, a futuristic space propulsion engine capable of getting us to Mars in a matter of weeks, may sound like science-fiction — but it’s just taken one big leap toward being science-fact.

That’s because a paper describing how it can achieve thrust has reportedly passed the peer review process and is all set to be published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ AIAA Journal of Propulsion and Power.

Written by scientists at the NASA Eagleworks Laboratories, the paper’s successful passing of rigorous academic scrutiny was confirmed by independent scientist Dr. José Rodal on NASA’s Spaceflight forum — only for the comment to be quickly deleted.

The paper is entitled “Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio Frequency Cavity in Vacuum.” It’s exciting because it suggests that EmDrive technology is getting closer than ever. Engineer Paul March of NASA’s experimental Eagleworks Laboratories confirmed that a paper on EmDrive was going ahead earlier this year, but he didn’t sound too much hopeful when he noted that “peer reviews are glacially slow.”

For those unfamiliar with it, the propellantless propulsion system EmDrive was first designed by aerospace engineer Roger Shawyer back in 2001 — offering a way to make aircraft lighter, faster, and (possibly) cheaper since they won’t have to carry fuel. The reason for skepticism in some quarters has come because it appears to defy Newton’s conservation of momentum law, stating that an object won’t move unless some outside force is applied.

That skepticism has made even respected publications like New Scientist question how much space they should be dedicating to a concept which seems to defy much of what we know about the way the physical world works.

Hopefully, the publishing of a peer-reviewed article on EmDrive will answer a few more of those questions.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Listen to the first-ever recording of a NASA rover driving on Mars
This image was taken during the first drive of NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars on March 4, 2021. Perseverance landed on Feb. 18, 2021, and the team has been spending the weeks since landing checking out the rover to prepare for surface operations. This image was taken by the rover’s Navigation Cameras.

NASA has released the first-ever recording of a rover driving across the surface of Mars.

Perseverance, which arrived on the Martian surface in February 2021 on a two-year mission to search for signs of ancient life, can be heard making its way along the dusty, rock-strewn ground -- though the sound is unusual, to say the least.

Read more
NASA just released this awe-inspiring video of Perseverance’s landing on Mars
This high-resolution still image is part of a video taken by several cameras as NASA's Perseverance rover touched down on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. A camera aboard the descent stage captured this shot.

Perseverance Rover’s Descent and Touchdown on Mars (Official NASA Video)

Following the incredible landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars last week, NASA has released a treasure trove of data about the landing, including stunning video of the rover touching down on the surface captured from multiple different angles.

Read more
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins just cast her vote — from space
nasa astronaut kate rubins just cast her vote from space  iss voting booth

Voting from space is a thing.

With no waiting in line, and a voting booth just a short distance away, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins on Thursday cast her presidential election ballot from the confines of the International Space Station (ISS).

Read more