In what is being called a violation of the conservation of momentum -- one of the most powerful laws in physics that states that every action must have an equal and opposite reaction -- NASA confirmed that they have produced tiny amounts of thrust from an engine without propellant. The achievement represents a significant breakthrough and this new type of "impossible" engine could completely revolutionize space travel, an Aug. 4 report from The Independent explained.
NASA is testing different technologies for their future space travels, but this "impossible" engine (known as ‘Cannae Drive’) has attracted more attention than others because it could possibly enable humans to move around much longer and faster through space. This new scheme submitted by U.S. scientist Guido Fetta, would leave behind the limitations of fuel loading in spacecraft, because this new system does not require rocket thrusters to move throughout the universe.
"Test results indicate that the RF [radio frequency] 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," the NASA team wrote in their study.
This system works through microwaves bouncing from end-to-end of a specially designed, unevenly-shaped container which create a difference in radiation pressure, causing thrust to be exerted toward the larger end of the container. Although the so-called "impossible" engine has already been independently tested by NASA, it is not yet capable of moving a ship through space.
According to experts, this technology could substantially reduce the cost of satellites and space stations,which could use solar electricity to power their microwave engines. Moreover, it could allow the development of travel into deep space and shorten travel times, for example, to Mars, from a few months to only a few weeks. Though this technology was recently recognized by NASA, a similar type of technology has been demonstrated to work in small scale trials by Chinese and Argentine scientists. British scientist Roger Shawyer had shown a similar pattern through its EmDrive engine, capable of converting eletricity into thrust, without the need for any propellant and working only with the rebound microwave in a closed container. A system was also recently replicated by a Chinese team.