A science fiction writer acquaintance of mine, John Ringo, is already going nuts about this “Shawyer Drive” on his Facebook page, because he
is friends with one of the scientists involved.
See power point page and the links below:
Magnetron powered EM-drive construction expected to take two months
Emdrive Roger Shawyer believes midterm EMdrive interstellar probe could flyby Alpha Centauri
The drive seems to be a quantum “zero-point energy” phenomena that you put electricity into and get reaction massless thrust out of.
_AND_ it looks to be both scalable and improvable with better magnetrons.
This is also dovetailing nicely with a Lockheed Martin compact fusion reactor that
1. Generates more power than it uses and
2. Produces something on the order of 7.4 megawatts
Given the reality of Space X’s and Blue Origin’s reusable rocket successes, and it seems that Mankind is about to burst out from this planet in a very big way.
And all of the above is driving John Ringo to despair on his science fiction writing career.
13 thoughts on “Shawyer Space Drive…Arriving.”
I wonder if anyone else ever read “Needle” written by Hal Clement. who was an astronomer and who wrote science fiction?
During World War II Clement was a pilot and copilot of a B-24 Liberator and flew 35 combat missions over Europe with the 68th Bomb Squadron, 44th Bomb Group, based in England with 8th Air Force. After the war, he served in the United States Air Force Reserve, and retired with the rank of colonel. He taught chemistry and astronomy for many years at Milton Academy in Milton, Massachusetts.
Needle is an amazing bit of science fiction that I read as a teenager (1950) and many times since. The drive in the alien’s space craft is an ion drive that sounds very modern. I have not read the other books in the “Needle series” and will set out to do so.
Another Doc Brown?
How’s his hair?
The news just came out this week that the X-37 space plane will use an ion drive.
IIRC we launched a satellite a few years back with an experimental ion drive.
So John Ringo is going crazy? I thought he already was there. He writes some damn fine action and science fiction stories. He even wrote a fantasy series I found palatable.
My employer (a large nuclear plant provider) had the Lockheed fusion project team leader give a presentation on their work last month. Their concept is fascinating and seems to have promise. We’ll see. I’d love to see the end of the “just around the corner” crap I’ve been hearing the last 40 years.
The EM drive seems to be working in the tests so far, but before we can use it to power interstellar missions, manned or unmanned, something will have to be done about radiation protection as at any fraction of light speed above 0.05c will have intense gamma radiation produced as the spacecraft hits the fairly thick hydrogen concentrations in interstellar space. This will fry all electronic equipment and biological organisms. I do not see humanity getting much above 02c or so, as the energy necessary to go faster is tremendous, in some cases, more than our sun puts out.
Low earth orbit is 1/2 way to anywhere in the solar system, and the Blue Origin and Space X RLV’s are on deck.
Once at LEO, getting humans to Mars in weeks or Pluto in eight months is a realist this generation application of this “Shawyer Space Drive” without LockMart’s fusion plant.
I’ll settle for that, because it means my kids will have the wealth of the solar system come home in their adult life time.
I really have little admiration for Robert Heinlein but I do like his use of one old admonition.
TANSTAAFL “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
“something will have to be done about radiation protection as at any fraction of light speed above 0.05c will have intense gamma radiation produced”
One of many reasons I figure I was born too soon. Unless Obama gets the country wrecked by an EMP or Muslim terrorists, we should have an amazing future. Medical developments and engineering will be wonderful if any American kids are still getting educated. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to catch up to my medical students and this year my students are all also engineers.
Getting people to Mars is not a problem even without the Shawyer drive. We could have done it anytime in the last 40 years with the NERVA nuclear fission propulsion unit. The two big problems are cost, of which the vast majority is LEO launch costs and radiation exposure from cosmic an solar sources. The need for huge volumes of consumables such as air, water, food , and fuel would be incredibly expensive even with truly re-usable launchers. Slightly cheaper in the short run, but much cheaper in the long run would be to build a lunar colony and exploit lunar resources to reduce he costs. This will also take longer. We should have built a lunar base in the 1980’s.
Anything going out past Mars in reality will need a nuclear power plant, either a fission or Lockmart’s fusion plant, which by their own admission will not be ready for commercial application before 2025 and we have never built a big fission power plant to operate in zero g, and in any case will be really big, probably on the order of 30-50 tons minimum without the fuel and coolant. I would estimate at least 10 years of work to produce one, assuming we have a launcher capable of putting into orbit.
Yes PenGun TANSTAAFL indeed.
Gurray. Ion Engines are still based on Newton’s 3rd law (for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction). They use electric energy to ionize their propellant (usually a noble gas like Xenon) and accelerate it out of the nozzle. This article is about the specific type of ion engine that will be tested on the X37
They are very attractive because their specific impulse (a measure of efficiency) is an order of magnitude higher than conventional rockets. The trade off is that they produce only tiny amounts of thrust. They can be very useful for deep space missions where the ability to carry quantities of rocket fuel is limited.
The type of drive discussed above by Gospodin Telenko is reactionless and not bound by Newton’s third law. It therefore does not require a propellant. The need for propellant is a very important constraint on deep space missions. The less the better.
So wait a second; does this mean that with batteries that are strong enough, we could now have levitating cars, if the EM drive is pointed down?
With what they’ve got now you’d be better off mounting electric fans on your vehicle to get it off the ground; the test drives they’ve built seem to be producing milliNewtons of thrust (a pound is ~4.4 Newtons). Since they aren’t sure quite how the EmDrive works (assuming it truly does work) they don’t know how efficient it can be (even theoretically) nor how much power one can pump into such a thing.
The Wired.UK article should be read in full. Here is an excerpt:
“5. Even if it works, how can such a small thrust push a spacecraft?
The thrust was low because this is a very low-powered apparatus. The Chinese have demonstrated a system using kilowatts rather than watts of power that produces a push of 720 millinewtons. This is enough to lift a couple of ounces, making it competitive with modern space drives. The difference is that this drive doesn’t require any propellant, which usually takes up a lot of launch weight and places a limit on how long other drives can operate for.
The Nasa paper says “the expected thrust to power for initial flight applications is expected to be in the 0.4 newton per kilowatt electric (N/kWe) range, which is about seven times higher than the current state of the art Hall thruster in use on orbit today.”
6. How does this get us to Mars?
The small but steady push of the EmDrive is a winner for space missions, gradually accelerating spacecraft to high speed.
The Nasa paper projects a ‘conservative’ manned mission to Mars from Earth orbit, with a 90-ton spacecraft driven by the new technology. Using a 2-megawatt nuclear power source, it can develop 800 newtons (180 pounds) of thrust. The entire mission would take eight months, including a 70-day stay on Mars.
This compares with Nasa’s plans using conventional technology which takes six months just to get there, and requires several hundred tons to be put into Earth’s orbit to start with. You also have to stay there for at least 18 months while you wait for the planets to align again for the journey back. The new drive provides enough thrust to overcome the gravitational attraction of the Sun at these distances, which makes manoeuvring much easier.
A less conservative projection has an advanced drive developing ten times as much thrust for the same power — this cuts the transit time to Mars to 28 days, and can generally fly around the solar system at will, a true Nasa dream machine.”
If this concept works, we will certainly have interplanetary space travel inside the Solar System. See the old Poul Anderson science-fiction short story series, Tales of the Flying Mountains at:
On the other hand, nutballs with a reactionless drive spaceship could try to pasteurize the planet with it in a suicide attack a la 9/11. See the John Varley science-fiction novel, Red Lightning for an example of such an attack:
We may soon live in much more interesting times.
Apparently the Chinese EM drive tests showed sufficient power to thrust ratios to provide station-keeping thrust for the ISS. Not having to use reaction mass makes an enormous difference. I expect Elon Musk’s company will deliver a test package for this to the ISS sometime 2-5 years from now.
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