An actual EM Drive is about to be launched into space for the first time, so scientists can finally figure out, once and for all if it really is possible for a rocket engine to generate thrust without any kind of exhaust or propellant.

Built by American inventor and chemical engineer, Guido Fetta, the EM Drive is as controversial as it gets, because while certain experiments have suggested that such an engine could work, it also goes against one of the most fundamental laws of physics we have.

This is because, in order for a thruster to gain momentum in a certain direction, it has to expel some kind of propellant or exhaust in the opposite direction.

The EM Drive simply goes in one direction with no propellant, and thus violates the law of conservation of momentum, which Newton derived from his Third Law.

As Fiona MacDonald put it back in June, space enthusiasts love to get excited about the EM Drive, because if it works, it has the potential to remove major barriers in our need to explore the Solar System and beyond.

Invented by British scientist Roger Shawyer back in 1999, the EM Drive, short for electromagnetic propulsion drive, purportedly works like this.

This causes the ‘pointy end’ of the EM Drive to accelerate in the opposite direction that the drive is going.

“To put it simply, electricity converts into microwaves within the cavity that push against the inside of the device, causing the thruster to accelerate in the opposite direction,” Mary-Ann Russon explains over at The International Business Times.

“This is an important step for the EM Drive as it adds legitimacy to the technology and the tests done thus far, opening the door for other groups to replicate the tests. This will also allow other groups to devote more resources to uncovering why and how it works, and how to iterate on the drive to make it a viable form of propulsion.”

On top of all of that, we’re about to see an actual EM Drive be blasted into space.

Guido Fetta is CEO of Cannae Inc and the inventor of the Cannae Drive, a rocket engine that’s based on Roger Shawyer’s original EM Drive design.

David Hambling reported for Popular Mechanics that roughly one-quarter of this shoebox-sized satellite will be taken up by the Cannae Drive, and they’ll stay in orbit for at least six months: “The longer it stays in orbit, the more the satellite will show that it must be producing thrust without propellant.”

As Hambling points out, Fetta better hurry, because of a team of engineers in China, and Shawyer himself, are both also working on their own launchable EM Drives, so someone’s going to get there first, and we seriously cannot wait to see what will happen.

 

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