Wednesday, September 24, 2008

China building electromagnetic relativity drive

From WIRED: Chinese Say They're Building 'Impossible' Space Drive

Chinese researchers claim they've confirmed the theory behind an "impossible" space drive, and are proceeding to build a demonstration version. If they're right, this might transform the economics of satellites, open up new possibilities for space exploration – and give the Chinese a decisive military advantage in space.

To say that the "Emdrive" (short for "electromagnetic drive") concept is controversial would be an understatement. According to Roger Shawyer, the British scientist who developed the concept, the drive converts electrical energy into thrust via microwaves, without violating any laws of physics. Many other researchers believe otherwise. An article about the Emdrive in New Scientist magazine drew a massive volley of criticism. Scientists not only argued that Shawyer's work was blatantly impossible, and and that his reasoning was flawed. They also said the article should never have been published...

Shawyer stands by his theoretical work. His company, Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd. (SPR), has constructed demonstration engines which he says produce thrust, using a tapering resonant cavity filled with microwaves. He is adamant that this is not a perpetual motion machine, and does not violate the law of conservation of momentum because different reference frames apply to the drive and the waves within it. Shawyer's big challenge, he says, has been getting people who will actually look into his claims rather than simply dismissing them.

The possibilities are phenomenal: Instead of going out of service when they run out of fuel, satellites will have greatly extended endurance and will be able to move around at will. (We won’t have to shoot them down because of the risk from toxic fuel either.) Deep space probes will be able to go further, faster – and stop when they arrive. Shawyer calculates that a solar-powered Emdrive could take a manned mission to Mars in 41 days. Provided it works, of course.

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