In July last year, at its ‘Eagle Works’ propulsion labs, NASA’s best minds were tinkering with an idea proposed and experimented with by UK aerospace engineer, Roger Shawyer. He, through his company Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd, first developed the idea of an electro magnetic drive, which requires only power input and no fuel to produce propulsion. His own experiments were peer reviewed as plausible by New Scientist in their September 8 2006 issue, despite hotly contested results by many physicists at the time.
NASA years later, via Harold White’s Eagle Works team, replicated these results which is covered in much greater detail in our earlier 2014, August 19 article.
The main criticism of all the results of both Shawyer, the Chinese team from ‘Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xi’an and NASA’s 2014 tests were that experiments were not conducted in a vacuum where the thermal convection of ionized air particles to produce thrust could not occur. Its critics expounded that it was likely that atmospheric particles internal to the EM drive were being ionized and expelled to produce the measured thrust and not the ‘virtual particles’ of Quantum vacuum, as Harold White proposed.
To this end, NASA Eagleworks has with its most recent round of tests now nullified the skeptics prevailing hypothesis. NASA`s Spaceflight group has focused intently on whether the experimental measurements of thrust force were the result of an artifact due to either thermal convection or some other effect. So far and despite considerable effort within the Spaceflight forum to dismiss the reported thrust as an artifact, the EM Drive results have yet to be falsified.
Full interview: Roger Shawyer, Creator of EmDrive
After consistent reports of thrust measurements from EM Drive experiments in the US, UK, and China – at thrust levels several thousand times in excess of a photon rocket, and now under hard vacuum conditions – the actual mechanics of where this verified thrust is coming from really does require serious inquiry.
Dr. White’s computer analysis that is based on the manipulation of quantum vacuum with a magnetron instead of the voltage controlled oscillator of which they used previously showed the following results. That increasing the input power focuses the virtual particle flow from near omnidirectional at the low powers used in the NASA experiments, to a much more focused jet like beam at the higher power (kilowatts as compared to less than 100 Watts) used in the UK and China experiments.
The simulation for the 100 Watts input power (as used in the latest tests at NASA) predicted only ~50 microNewtons (in agreement with the experiments) using the HDPE dielectric insert, while the 10 kilowatts simulation (without a dielectric) predicted a thrust level of ~6.0 Newton’s. At 100 kilowatts the prediction is ~1300 Newton thrust. The computer code also shows that the efficiency, as measured by the thrust to input power ratio, decreases at input powers exceeding 50 kilowatts.
A note of caution is that Dr. White’s simulations do not assume that the Quantum Vacuum is indestructible and immutable. The mainstream physics community assumes the Quantum Vacuum is indestructible and immutable because of the experimental observation that a fundamental particle like an electron (or a positron) has the same properties (e.g. mass, charge or spin), regardless of when or where the particle was created, whether now or in the early universe, through astrophysical processes or in a laboratory.
Another cause for concern and further investigation is that the Quantum Vacuum is assumed to be the lowest possible (time-averaged) energy that a quantum physical system may have, and therefore it should not be possible to extract momentum or energy from the Quantum Vacuum.
Due to these predictions by Dr. White’s computer simulations, NASA Eagleworks has started to build a 100 Watt – 1,200 Watt waveguide magnetron microwave power system which will drive an aluminum EM Drive shaped like a truncated cone. Using a teeter-totter balance system in ambient conditions will enable the team to see if similar higher thrust levels (0.016 to 0.3 Newton) as previously reported in the US and China can be reproduced at NASA with this approach.
All in all its a very exciting and tumultuous time for propulsion science as new ground and possible new physics, if Harold S White is right, is pioneered and the reality of rapid ubiquitous space exploration and industrialization becomes a near future possibility.