The Inventor of the EM Drive (I posted about 5/8/15 and 7/30/15), Roger Shawyer, just published the peer-reviewed paper “Second Generation EmDrive Propulsion Applied To SSTO Launcher And Interstellar Probe” in the journal Acta Astronautica. Shawyer and his firm, Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd., is working on a second generation of the controversial EM drive. Their target is to produce a drive capable of producing at least 1,000kg of thrust from electrical power.
While this drive, if it can be built, would be applicable to spacecraft, Shawyer is now eying the much more lucrative terrestrial transportation market of drones and autos. With a current target of a 2017 flight, we won’t have too long to wait.
Let’s all hope that he, or one of the others researching the EM drive, will have something practical before the end of this decade.
I wrote a little about the EM drive last May. In essence that drive produces thrust for spacecraft using electricity. While the EM drive is not something that will get us FTL capability, it would be a step forward towards faster and cheaper travel in space.
The drive is scoffed at by most, but German researchers are scheduled to make a presentation at the American Institute for
Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Propulsion and Energy Forum that
just began in Orlando, Florida. The paper “Direct Thrust Measurements of an EMDrive and Evaluation of Possible Side-Effects” describes the research and supports claims of the EM drive producing thrust.
Certainly this is not a firm acknowledgement that the EM drive works, but it does open the way to further research. As unlikely as many believe the claims of the EM drive to be, proving that it does work would be a major step forward to space travel and exploration.
Launching anything into orbit has, thus far, relied on the tried
and true chemical rocket. Escape Dynamics Inc. may soon offer an alternate solution – launch to orbit on microwaves. The concept is to set up microwave transmitters on the ground and focus them on the spacecraft. Inside the thruster of the spacecraft is a heat exchanger that absorbs the microwave radiation and heats up the on-board fuel – either helium (used in their latest proof of concept) or hydrogen.
Thus far their tests have shown that the concept can generate more thrust than conventional rockets. If this idea proves viable, then space planes can be launched into orbit with payloads up to 200kg. The payload can be deployed in orbit, then the space plane can glide back to Earth. Once it has landed it can be refueled and be ready for it’s next flight.
Certainly this is not a method of propulsion that you will be seeing in the near future, but so far the idea holds promise for the future.