Update (2 September): It has been confirmed to IFLScience by the AIAA that a paper on the EmDrive is being published in December 2016. They said:
“The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Journal of Propulsion and Power has accepted for publication a paper in the area of electromagnetic propulsion. However, it is AIAA’s policy not to discuss the details of peer reviewed papers before/until they are published. We currently expect the paper in question to be published in December 2016.”
Our original article is below.
According to the International Business Times, a scientist called Dr José Rodal left a comment on the NASA Spaceflight Forum (which is not actually associated with NASA) about the imminent publication of a peer-reviewed paper confirming that the EmDrive actually does work.
In the post, there was also an alleged extract from the paper, which will apparently be published in the Journal of Propulsion and Power from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. We've asked the institute to confirm if this is true, but haven't heard back from them yet. (see update)
The EmDrive is a controversial propulsionless engine that apparently creates thrust using microwaves trapped in a chamber without releasing any exhaust material. This seems to contravene the laws of dynamics, but there are explanations on how this might occur. It's very much unproven at the moment, though.
According to Dr Rodal, the latest paper says: “Thrust data in mode shape TM212 at less than 8106Torr environment, from forward, reverse and null tests suggests that the system is consistently performing with a thrust to power ratio of 1.2 +/- 0.1 mN/Kw ().” The jargon suggests the engine does indeed create a tiny amount of thrust, even at less than the normal atmospheric pressure.
The comment was promptly deleted, but was still picked up by several outlets. While the EmDrive is not some miracle warp engine that breaks the laws of physics, it remains a very interesting project that could lead to cheaper (and, over long distances, faster) interplanetary travel. It remains contentious, though, to say the least.
The thrust theoretically created is tiny, on the order of a few microNewtons, but since it doesn’t require any fuel, it could be used constantly and achieve very high speeds over time. By comparison, regular rocket engines can have more than 50,000 times the thrust of the EmDrive, but you’ll have to carry all the fuel with you.
The EmDrive is currently being tested at Eagleworks, an experimental lab set up by NASA to look into new technology. A few months ago, Paul March, who’s working on the EmDrive tests, announced that a paper was submitted. So this might be the premature announcement that the paper has finally been accepted for publication. Until we see the results, though, let’s continue to take the EmDrive with a grain of salt.
[H/T: International Business Times]