NASA has successfully tested a new space drive that doesn’t use a propellant and shouldn’t work, at least according to the laws of physics, according to a story that broke in Wired.UK. The drive, called the Cannae Drive, worked in the NASA directed test, defying physics.
The Cannae Drive is based on the work of Roger Shawyer, a British scientist, who conceived what’s called the EMDrive. It works by bouncing microwaves in an enclosed chamber, thus creating thrust. Shawyer was never able to get anyone interested in his device, despite numerous demonstrations. His critics simply rejected the device entirely, pointing out that it violates the conservation of motion.
The Chinese quietly tested their own version of the EMDrive at up to 72 grams of thrust, which is enough to be a satellite thruster. This device has not yet been reported on in too many places and few believed it to be possible.
The Cannae Drive seems to have been developed independently of the EMDrive, though it works just about the same way. In the NASA Test, they demonstrated that on Cannae drive was able tp produce a thrust of less than one thousandth of the Chinese version. But it demonstrated definitively that it worked.
“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.”
That’s all just a fancy way of saying that we’re not completely sure. Wired speculated that the process involves pushing against a cloud of particles and anti-particles that are constantly popping in and out of empty space. And that’s about the point where this humble writer is lost.
The big question is: can these drives be scaled up and used in space travel? Maybe. More research will be needed.