Latest research aims to resolve whether the exciting and controversial thruster could actually work.
The EmDrive could usher in an era of interstellar voyages for human beings. Or it could be a failed experiment that unsuccessfully tried to break the laws of physics. A pair of upcoming papers may just settle that decades-long argument.
The EmDrive was first proposed in 2001 by scientist Roger Shawyer. In theory, the drive—also called a radiofrequency resonant cavity thruster—converts electricity into microwaves and forces them through a sealed cone. The microwaves would bounce around the reflective surface of the cone, and since the microwaves carry momentum, they would impart that momentum to that surface. The waves would exert more force on the larger end of the cone than the smaller one, creating enough thrust—without the need for propellant—to push a spacecraft through the vacuum of space. And, the drive could theoretically increase momentum once it starts moving.