Anomalous Propulsion Drive Verified at NASA [Update: Link to Full Report]

Here’s a very interesting development that has been brought up here on the Always Open thread, and also discussed on vortex-l. An article on Wired Uk by David Hambling reports how a US scientist named Guido Fetta has built a microwave thruster which works without any propellant and has had a NASA team conduct extensive testing on a system based on his work.

The NASA team just presented their test results at 50th Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, and have verified the claims of Guido Fetta. The results have been published in a paper titled “Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum”. The conclusion of the abstract states:

“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. Future test plans include independent verification and validation at other test facilities.”

Guido Fetta’s research is based on the work of British Scientist Roger Shawyer who developed an invention he calls the EmDrive which he claims produces thrust “by the amplification of the radiation pressure of an electromagnetic wave propagated through a resonant waveguide assembly.”

While this technology doesn’t seem to be directly related to LENR, it’s always interesting to see breakthroughs of this nature. It would seem that this new form of propulsion would be of great interest to NASA and other organizations working in the field of space exploration. A purely microwave thruster would allow spacecraft to be powered directly from solar panels, eliminating the need for any on-board fuel supply, making possible cheaper craft that can travel much farther than is now possible.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the full report published by the NASA team:

  • naerougi

    The most interesting thing – not mentioned in the above article – is that a second similar experiment without the newly developed ‘thrust chamber’ also showed the same amount of thrust. This shouldn’t be the case.
    So no breakthrough here. Most likely thrust generated by heat. btw. the test was not conducted in vacuum.

    • AlainCo

      do you describe the “null drive”, without the indentation.

      this experiment in fact does not refute the experimental result, but the theory of Fetta.

      my 2 cent is that theory is premature again, and that current science have difficulty about that old wisdom.

  • Obvious

    Pretty much this would be a tear in space-time. Truly empty space is probably technically outside of the universe.
    Does this mean I have figured out the mechanism of interstellar travel? Send me a 1% gross overriding royalty if you build a ship based on this design that produces a profit, please. That is, of course, if money means anything in a society that could build such a thing.

  • Heath

    I would hope that thorough testing on these things would happen. It’s one thing to provide thrust to reposition a satellite in space, quite another for a scaled up version of this to be near people and flora and fauna. That’s what safety certifications are for.

  • builditnow

    An imaginary trip to Mars using a cold fusion propulsion system that has plenty of thrust.

    Exiting earth requires lying down so that an acceleration of 3 g is tolerated for about 10 minutes (you scientists can give me the correct time). Once away from the earth, acceleration is reduced to 1 g, so it feels like you are just walking around on earth. The acceleration continues for couple of days at 1 g and then the ship slowly rotates at a very slow rotational rate over an hour or so, so that everyone can keep walking around, 1 g is maintained during the rotation. The rotation is such that the ship is now decelerating at 1 g and continues to decelerate for a couple of days for arrival into mars orbit. Once in mars orbit, everyone is to lay down again for a 3 g deceleration to the landing point on Mars.
    Trip time, approximately 4 days Earth to Mars or Mars to Earth.
    You don’t have to wait for Mars to be close to earth, it will be shorter in time but not by that much because the extra time is spent at the maximum speed, covering the most distance.

    The ship could be several times the size of a 747, spend most of it’s time accelerating vertically with respect to the floor, except when everyone stands up to be effectively then be in the laying down position for atmospheric entry or launch. One would enter the ship like a normal plane, then strap into a standing position against vertical “couches”. On take off the ship rotates to vertical. When in space, the ship rotates to horizontal and acceleration becomes vertical to the floor, the vertical couches convert to seats, open spaces etc.

    Who is ready for the trip?
    Tickets are now available at …..

  • Ophelia Rump

    Nothing so dramatic.
    Maybe some time space distortions, maybe no more replacement of the virtual particles as they pop out of existence and are not replaced.

    Worst case scenario: any matter in the vacuum ceases to exist as it’s virtual particles evaporate and never replenish. Who knows?

    • Obvious

      If one could reactionlessly force the quantum foam out of your path, the pressure of the entire universe will force you into the true vacuum. The question is: does the pressure of the universe react instantly, or at the speed of light?

  • builditnow

    Bachcole: Strong opinion there. Well, if machines do become conscious and you and I are still around, I’ll have a virtual beer with you. It will help you get over your shock and for me, help me wonder what is going to happen next as I’ve become an evolutionary looser.

    I’m on the other end of the spectrum, in that I think it’s a practical certainty at some point. My view is that we already have self replicating viruses in our internet of computers and the combined processing power of all the computers connected to the internet exceeds a human’s by many many times. Besides the fact that we humans are busy trying to make machines “conscious”, it’s also possible the world network could develop a consciousness by itself and would know most of what we humans know in minutes, weed out all the errors, recognize all the valid but missed ideas like cold fusion and go on to make numerous other realizations that we humans have missed that are staring us in the face, or require a superior intelligence to understand.
    Then evolve at the pace of days instead of 100,000 years.

    I’m hoping these machines will find that space is a much better place for them, no need to be restricted to the damp, corrosive, gravity hole we call earth. If we are really lucky, they will look after us and, like a parent to a young child (us humans), try to explain how things really work in the universe.

  • Ophelia Rump

    It would take one hour to move the first foot.
    Therefore the launch of the 90 ton payload would be on top of a conventional rocket.

    The rocket would be so big that the top would almost be in space before the launch. Get real.

  • Julian Becker

    one of the co-authors of the paper is Harold White. He works at NASA and is currently looking into something called Q-Thrusters. I guess they work in a similar fashion. Furthermore, he is also the guy who looks into the possibility of creating a Warp Drive for NASA:

  • Christopher Calder

    Using LENR to superheat a gas for a rocket motor would probably be a quicker way to get to Mars. For such a trip you will need a smart computer and IBM claims to have a chip that reasons like a human,…well, sort of.

  • Ophelia Rump

    Yes, I think courage has been reserved for the rich, the rest of us cannot afford the luxury. Perhaps this is the entire purpose of maintaining the existence of poverty in a world of abundance. If it is, then it is an evil practice.

  • Ophelia Rump

    The Em Drive will never get out of the Earth’s gravity well. The power source required would be too large, even nuclear. It is far too weak an effect in proportion to the power required.

    We would either need space based mining and manufacturing or the space elevator.

    • AlainCo

      if one follow the theory of shawyer Emdrive is not a way to replace rockets.
      if one use High-Q cavities in fact it prevent accelerations of the vehicle.

      in fact high-Q cavities is like a “table”… hard to satelliting a vehicle with a table, but one can put very heavy charge on a table and prevent it from falling.

      If that model is confirmed (not guaranteed, it is theory, and most theory are broken) the the best way to use EmDrive for satelliting a vehicle is to use a classic engine by pulse , and activate the EmDrive just to prevent the vehicle to fall, installing the “table”…

      it looks like what doe the rock climbers … they claim, then rest, climb then rest…

      • bitplayer

        Shawyer thinks he can get more juice out it

        “A large high power thruster was designed, operating at 900 MHz. This thruster again used a YBCO superconducting coating, and was cooled
        with liquid Hydrogen. The compensation technique included both cavity length extension and frequency offset, with a lower duty cycle than the
        3.85 GHz thruster. A specific thrust of 9.92 kN/kW was predicted with an acceleration limit of 0.5m/s/s.”

        Clearly just poster-ware at this point, however, it leaves the hypothetical door open for zoom.

  • Enrique Ferreyra

    The thing is that this device could be a bigger breakthrough than the e-cat, because is way much simpler, its damn easy, and somebody here with good math should calculate if you could produce energy with this effect, because if you can then is a premature death for -commercial- viability of LENR.

    • Heath

      This device does not create energy but is a propellantless electric thruster which if the next gen EMDrive lives up to Shawyer’s predictions will revolutionize space and ground based transportation–we’re talking about quiet verticle takeoff and landing vehicles that can even reach space in 20 minutes or move from city to city. Imagine those possibilities. I’m very happy that NASA will continue testing this…sad that they ignored it until the Chinese testing results. And like the e-cat, if NASA is testing this thing then the DoD is testing this for military use. Plus, and e-cat may power this thruster nicely.

      • Ophelia Rump

        How do you get VTOL from less than 200 pounds of thrust, which requires 2-megawatts to power it?

        One of us is missing something here and I wish it were me, but I don’t think so.
        “The Nasa paper projects a ‘conservative’ manned mission to Mars from Earth orbit, with a 90-ton spacecraft driven by the new technology. Using a 2-megawatt nuclear power source, it can develop 800 newtons (180 pounds) of thrust. The entire mission would take eight months, including a 70-day stay on Mars.”

        • Heath

          Hi, OR. I was speaking about Shawyer’s 2nd generation engine not the one NASA is testing. This thruster is slated to be complete according to Shawyer 2016. Much much more thrust per kW–I believe he mentions 80 tonnes with 78 mW input power. If he can indeed do this it would have a dramatic effect on terrestrial and space transportation. If he is telling the truth.

          • Heath

            Shawyer’s presentation last month, though long, spells out what he hopes to do in the future.

          • Ophelia Rump

            I would say that if he can produce that much thrust, it depends on the weight of the reactor which can produce 78 mW.

            With LENR it might be feasible.
            The shielding of a conventional nuclear reactor would rule them out.

            • Heath

              Agreed. It all is in the proof. I think that with Nasa’s tests over the next few months, if the data corresponds to the Chinese data, and his first gen thruster is proven, then we should look more intently at his 2nd gen over the next year and a half. If you really think about what this could mean in the future, it is mind boggling.

  • Sanjeev

    The wired faq #3 answers this.

    Quote : While the original abstract says that tests were run “within a
    stainless steel vacuum chamber with the door closed but at ambient
    atmospheric pressure”, the full report describes tests in which
    turbo vacuum pumps were used to evacuate the test chamber to a
    pressure of five millionths of a Torr, or about a hundred-millionth
    of normal atmospheric pressure.

    Its anyway trivial to detect the ion-wind to rule out its presence.

  • Heath

    NASA will be testing the devices next month in a vacuum and with higher energy input. I’m trying to find where I read this and will post a link when I find it.

  • bitplayer

    The following gave helped me see past my fixation on modeling things in terms of billiard ball Newtonian physics.

    From Shawyers paper:

    “The second effect is that as the beam velocities are not directly dependent on any velocity of the waveguide, the beam and waveguide form an open system. Thus the reactions at the end plates are not constrained within a closed system of waveguide and beam but are reactions between waveguide and beam, each operating within its own reference frame, in an open system.”

    “reactions at the end plates” refers to the fact that forces are acting on both internal ends of the reaction vessel. The key is to see that there are two separate reactions, one at each end plate.

    “reactions between waveguide and beam”: the thing here is to see that the beam is an electromagnetic wave that is governed by special relativity, in particular the constancy of the speed of light.

    So, two separate reactions, each governed by the constancy of the speed of light, NOT by the fact the the beam is reflecting back and forth between the plates.

    Compare this to throwing marbles from one end of the reaction vessel to the other. Imagine you are braced against one end plate (the “brace” plate) and throwing marbles at the other plate (the “target” plate). Throwing a marble at the target plate would cause a reverse momentum in the opposite direction against the brace plate. So the increased momentum of the marble impacting the target plate would be cancelled out by the reverse momentum on the brace plate.

    However, momentum is related to the speed of the marble relative to the reaction vessel. When we replace the marbles with EM waves, they are governed by the speed of light, not by the speed of the reaction vessel. The speed of light is a constant which is literally outside of the reaction vessel. So the beam/plate interaction at one end plate is not connected to the beam/plate interaction at the other plate, through some Newtonian “rod-like” force mechanics. And so the force on one plate is not “connected” to the force on the other plate.

    The actual generation of specific values of force, momentum and thrust gets more complicated because you have to understand “group velocity”, which is the sum of the velocities of a group of multiple related waves (like the waves from a pebble thrown in a pond).

    The shape of the reaction vessel, with one end plate smaller that the other, results in the same EM wave group having different wave lengths at one plate versus the other.

    This is turn creates a larger group velocity of the EM wave at the point of impact with the larger plate, and that larger group velocity translates into larger force on the larger plate, and thus thrust in the direction of the larger plate.

    Shawyer’s paper above gives the equations for this relationship between plate size, wave length, group velocity and force, and citations for their validity. I don’t quite fully understand the equations, however, the fact that I can come close means that trained physicists could easily pick them apart if they have flaws. No one, including the skeptics, appears to have done that.

    To conclude, once I saw that the two beam/plate reactions at the two separate plate were not inter-connected by Newtonian “billiard-ball” physics, It became possible for me to see that the emdrive could potentially work from a theoretical standpoint.

    LENR + EMDrive = Mars in 3 days.

    Let’s go!

    • Mats002

      I throw photons (which by the famous dualism can be particles) which give me a momentum, then the photons are absorbed by the target (as in electrons around a nucleus) which excites to a higher orbit around the nucleus which at a later point in time (later in bold) go back to it’s original lower orbit and excites a photon of a fixed-by-the-nucleus-properties wavelength in an other direction (by statistic not 180 degrees to my momentum) and that makes an asymetric Newtonian “billiard-ball” smash?

      • bitplayer

        The paper provides the equations for:

        > different end plate sizes > different wavelengths > different group velocities > different forces

        that section starts with this:

        We note that if the forces had been the mechanical result of a working fluid
        within the closed waveguide assembly, then the resultant force would merely
        introduce a mechanical strain in the waveguide walls. This would be the result of a closed system of waveguide and working fluid.
        In the present system the working fluid is replaced by an electromagnetic
        wave propagating close to the speed of light and Newtonian mechanics must be
        replaced with the special theory of relativity.

    • bachcole

      I have no idea what you said, but I know that I like it. (:->) As long as it works.

  • AlainCo
    • cx

      thats a really great FAQ. I have to nice one Wired.

    • bitplayer


    • GreenWin

      It’ll be fun to watch the denials become more desperate and shrill. These are skeptics so deeply mesmerized by “laws of physics” — they do not believe their eyes.

      • AlainCo

        there is something of it.

        the problem with experimental physics is that you always are insecure, because there is always risk of artifacts, and often some artifact cause retraction.
        moderns scientists are living in a terrible human context , full of backstab, hunting for awards, funding, review. an error can make you victime of harassment and push you to flee to the private or hang yourself in your bathroom.

        so laws are more reassuring.statistically, selfishly, the laws are more comfortable.
        people who obey them seldom do errors… the errors are huge, painful for the humanity, but for the scientists himself not more than an experimental retraction today.

        the problem is tha scientist have became risk-adverse.

        scientist loving to break the laws of physics is a myth. they can be happy of such breaking only in allowed domain, like what people try at LHC…

        scientist can make revolution, only if the consensus allow it.
        else they have to go private, or hang themselves.

    • Sanjeev

      I think the blog post should be updated once again to include this FAQ. Its precious.

      It once again shows that most of the people whom we call “skeptics” are just a bunch of clueless internet commentators. There is no serious problem with the experiment.

      One of the faq was especially interesting. (8. Surely a single result by one lab is likely to be an error?)
      The same skeptic will surely take a single half cooked experiment on cold fusion at MIT to be an undeniable proof of its non-existence.

      This is a very good example of the pathology of skepticism.