An independent scientist, known for his criticism of the highly controversial space propulsion technology EmDrive, has confirmed that he will be presenting information relating to the technology at a conference in Colorado, US in September. Several other noted scientists and researchers will also be present.
On Friday 16 September, Dr José Rodal posted on the Nasa Spaceflight forum that he would be unable to help another user on the forum who was requesting help to perform an EmDrive experiment.
Rodal said that the reason he was busy was because he would be attending a "conference presentation on breakthrough propulsion". When asked to elaborate, he announced that he would be attending the "Estes Park Advanced Propulsion Workshop" – a three-day conference hosted by the Space Studies Institute (SSI) from 20-22 September at the Estes Park Center in Colorado.
The SSI was founded in 1977 by renowned Princeton physicist Gerard Kitchen O'Neill and has sponsored multiple studies relating to alternative propulsion systems, such as laser- or microwave-beamed energy vehicles.
When pressed for more details, Rodal revealed that he will be joined by Nasa Eagleworks engineer Paul March, who will report on experiments carried out on the EmDrive "in a vacuum chamber, to prevent the anomalous effect of thermal convection". However, March will soon be leaving Eagleworks, according to another post in the same thread by another user close to the Nasa researchers.
Multiple aerospace scientists to present
How the EmDrive works
The EmDrive is the invention of British scientist Roger Shawyer, who proposed in 1999 that based on the theory of special relativity, electricity converted into microwaves and fired within a closed cone-shaped cavity causes the microwave particles to exert more force on the flat surface at the large end of the cone (i.e. there is less combined particle momentum at the narrow end due to a reduction in group particle velocity), thereby generating thrust.
His critics say that according to the law of conservation of momentum, his theory cannot work as in order for a thruster to gain momentum in one direction, a propellant must be expelled in the opposite direction, and the EmDrive is a closed system.
However, Shawyer claims that following fundamental physics involving the theory of special relativity, the EmDrive does in fact preserve the law of conservation of momentum and energy.
Dr Martin Tajmar, Professor and Chair for Space Systems at the Dresden University of Technology's Institute of Aerospace Engineering, renowned for his work in researching and debunking space propulsion systems, will also be presenting data showing how his experiments, similar to the Nasa Eagleworks ones, were able to record anomalous thrust.
Two researchers from California State University Fullerton (Dr Jim Woodward, an adjunct professor of physics, and Dr Heidi Fearn, a professor of physics) will make an appearance to discuss their experiments on a "Mach Effect Drive" in a vacuum chamber, also looking at preventing the anomalous effect of thermal convection.
There will also be a presentation by Professor David Hyland, a professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University, who will be exploring the "Experimental Dynamic Casimir Effect".
On top of this, a number of researchers who have been posting on the Nasa Spaceflight forum for several years will be attending the conference. These include Nembo Buldrini, a research scientist at Fotec GmbH who has published multiple papers on aerospace engineering and co-authored several studies with Dr Tajmar; and Todd Desiato, another independent researcher focusing on engineering physics and electronic engineering, who has an alternative theory explaining how the EmDrive works, called "Evanescent Wave".
The SSI hopes to make videos of the proceedings available at a later date after the conference is over. It will be covering other breakthroughs besides EmDrive, with each concept taking up half a day of discussion.
EmDrive: The story so far
The announcement of the conference is pivotal in light of recent news. On 2 September, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) peer reviewed and accepted a paper on the EmDrive by Nasa Eagleworks researchers, which will be published in December 2016.
The researchers first posted on the Nasa Spaceflight forum in April and November 2015 that they had succeeded in achieving thrust with the microwave thruster they had built, although they didn't know how. In March, the researchers claimed that the paper was going through peer review, although they didn't know when it would be published.
There has been a great deal of debate over whether the EmDrive works, and many academics in the international space community continue to believe that it is complete nonsense, because the technology violates the law of conservation of momentum, and hence our understanding of physics.
Nasa Eagleworks is a sort of "moonshot" experimental laboratory for investigating fringe theories in advanced propulsion physics, and with Nasa yet to validate the controversial technology, many have long believed that the Eagleworks research would never see the light of day.
In the meantime, Roger Shawyer, the British engineer/scientist who invented the EmDrive concept in 1999, is working with an unnamed UK aerospace company to develop the second generation of EmDrive, which will produce thrust many orders of magnitude greater than that observed by Eagleworks or any other laboratory.
In July 2015, Shawyer finally had a paper describing space propulsion on drones peer reviewed and accepted by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). In August 2016, the decade-long rule about classifying research done for the UK government has now expired, and Shawyer has made four papers publicly accessible on his website for anyone to read based on his work, which was funded until 2007 by the UK government.
Elsewhere, US chemical engineer Guido Fetta, who has been promoting a rival technology to the EmDrive called the Cannae Drive since 2011, is now hoping to beat Shawyer and everyone else to commercialising the technology by launching it on a cubesat into orbit to prove it works.