Nasa is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that “Impossible” microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on.
A US scientist, Guido Fetta, has built his own propellant-less microwave thruster, and managed to persuade Nasa to test it out. The Nasa team based at the Johnson Space Centre gave its paper the title “Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum”.
The torsion balance they used to test the thrust was sensitive enough to detect a thrust of less than ten micronewtons, but the drive actually produced 30 to 50 micronewtons – less than a thousandth of the Chinese results, but emphatically a positive result, in spite of the law of conservation of momentum: “Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma.”
The Nasa team has avoided trying to explain its results in favour of simply reporting what it found: “This paper will not address the physics of the quantum vacuum plasma thruster, but instead will describe the test integration, test operations, and the results obtained from the test campaign.”
“From what I understand of the Nasa and Cannae work – their RF thruster actually operates along similar lines to EmDrive, except that the asymmetric force derives from a reduced reflection coefficient at one end plate,” he says.
A working microwave thruster would radically cut the cost of satellites and space stations and extend their working life, drive deep-space missions, and take astronauts to Mars in weeks rather than months.