Earlier this year, scientists at NASA published a paper explaining in detail how the fuel-free EmDrive works, claiming to have successfully built the technology. The physics-defying concept at the core of the EmDrive has stirred up heated discussions among researchers even more so for claiming a spacecraft equipped with the technology could send humans to Mars in just a matter of weeks.
Nowadays, Chinese scientists from China Academy of Space Technology have made an even bolder claim. They suggest engineers working for the Chinese space program have actually been funding research into the EmDrive since 2010 and are currently testing a prototype in Earth’s low orbit, aboard the Tiangong-2.
Furthermore, Chinese officials say that all that NASA’s paper on the propulsion system that could revolutionize space travel was to re-confirm what their engineers have already achieved. Also, the scientists are now working around the clock in an effort to equip China’s satellites with the EmDrive.
By bouncing off microwaves inside a cylindrical cone, scientists have discovered it is possible to generate thrust without fuel. What they have discovered, however, is actually a violation of Newton’s third law of physics which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
At a press conference held in Beijing earlier this year, the Chinese scientists confirmed rumors about China Academy of Space Technology successfully building the EmDrive that have been circulating since NASA published the paper on the propulsion system approximately a month ago.
“National research institutions in recent years have carried out a series of long-term, repeated tests on the EmDrive”, said the head of the communication satellite division at China Academy of Space Technology, Dr. Chen Yue during the press conference in Beijing.
However, even though it seems that China is more likely to equip their satellites with the EmDrive first, the technology is only in its infancy. Li Feng, communication satellite’s division chief designer at CAST told reporters that the prototype generates only a few millinewtons of thrust, so far. This means that in order to work on a satellite, the EmDrive’s thrust levels must be kicked up to somewhere in between 0.1 and 1 Newtons. Reshaping the EmDrive’s cavity design in order to reduce electrical losses could help. Li Feng said that even though more work on the propulsion system is to be done, the Chinese scientists are confident they will succeed to equip satellites with the EmDrive in the near future.
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