Hyperdrive, Or Just Hype?


A rocket-drive theory that was discussed at a scientific meeting this week has the Internet buzzing, but critics say the research is flawed and violates well-established laws of physics. The electromagnetic-drive research was presented by Martin Tajmar, a professor for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, at a meeting of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, in Orlando. The EM drive, powered by solar energy, would not expel any propellant, but would be driven by bouncing microwaves within a closed container. Theoretically, the drive could make it possible to travel to the moon in four hours and to Mars within 70 days. NASA also has been investigating the concept, and reportedly found enough positive results to continue the research.

“Thrust measurements of the EM Drive defy classical physics’ expectations that such a closed (microwave) cavity should be unusable for space propulsion because of the law of conservation of momentum,” according to a report on NASA’s research in the NASAspaceflight.com blog. “However, Paul March, an engineer at NASA Eagleworks, recently reported … that NASA has successfully tested their EM Drive in a hard vacuum — the first time any organization has reported such a successful test.” The research will continue, according to NASAspaceflight.com, with an interest in potential applications for powering the International Space Station. Critics, however, say the research is a dead end and waste of time. CalTech physicist Sean Carroll told the io9 blog, “The EMDrive is complete crap … I’m going to spend my time thinking about ideas that don’t violate conservation of momentum.”

NOTE: This story has been updated from an earlier version, to clarify that quotes were from NASAspaceflight.com, an independent news blog, and not from NASA directly.