Em Drive rival to test sci-fi propulsion in Earth’s orbit

5 Sep 2016

Following the potentially incredible news about the exhaustless Em Drive propulsion system being peer reviewed, a rival method, referred to as the Cannae Drive, aims to test its propulsion system in space.

The scientific facts behind the Em Drive – a theoretical propulsion system that uses electromagnetism to propel itself forward in a vacuum – has been a contentious issue for a number of years now among propulsion experts.

Discussed last year as a precursor to a ‘warp drive’ engine that could take spacecraft to unparalleled speeds, the Em Drive has now returned to the hot-topic of the science community with news that it could be about to be peer reviewed.

The claim was made by a Dr José Rodal, who revealed on an online forum that the technology has passed peer review and will soon be published in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

Allegedly to be titled the “Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio Frequency Cavity in Vacuum”, the publishing of such a paper would thrust the concept into scientific legitimacy, despite it appearing to defy Isaac Newton’s Third Law.

Yet, while scientists debate online over the legitimacy of Dr Rodal’s claims, a company that is attempting to build its own version of the Em Drive – the Cannae Drive – hope to get the technology up into space as soon as possible.

Em Drive Cannae Drive

The proposed Cannae Drive satellite. Image via Cannae

Could launch in 2017

According to Popular Mechanics, the Cannae Drive and the Em Drive are quite similar in design, both using electromagnetism, but, where the Em Drive is being orchestrated by scientists at NASA’s Eagleworks facility, the Cannae Drive is following a commercial model.

This means that Cannae – the company developing the propulsion system – want to get into space to test it sooner rather than later.

To do this, the company last month revealed plans to launch a tiny cube satellite (cubesat) with similar measurements to a shoebox into Earth’s orbit.

There it will stay in orbit for at least six months to show that the Cannae Drive propulsion system within the cubesat actually works.

To help it do this, Cannae has formed another company – called Theseus – that will join a number of industrial partners together to help launch the satellite, hopefully sometime next year.

Right now, scientists are eagerly waiting to see whether this peer reviewed paper is actually about to be released and, if it is, whether it could propel us into a new space age in the decades to come.

Update 15:29 06/09/2016 

This article has been updated for clarity.

Main image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic