Update on EMDrive work at NASA Eagleworks

There is information from Paul March on the testing of the controversial EMDrive at NASA Eagleworks. Paul commented on the NASA spaceflight forum.

Experimental Thrust is at 50 micronewtons but need at least 100 micronewtons to go to Glenn Research Center (GRC) for a replication effort in the next few months

The NASA Eagleworks Lab is still working on the copper frustum thruster that was reported on last summer at the AIAA/JPC. They have now confirmed that there is a thrust signature in a hard vacuum (~5.0×10^-6 Torr) in both the forward direction, (approx. +50 micro-Newton (uN) with 50W at 1,937.115 MHz), and the reversed direction, (up to -16uN with a failing RF amp), when the thruster is rotated 180 degrees on the torque pendulum. However they continue to fight through RF amplifier failures brought on by having to operate them in a hard vacuum with few $$$ resources to fix them when they break, so the desired data is coming along very slowly. They are still working on obtaining enough data though that will allow us to go to Glenn Research Center (GRC) for a replication effort in the next few months. However that will only happen if they can make the thrust signature large enough since the GRC thrust stand can only measure down to ~50uN, so we have to get the thrust signature up to at least 100uN before they can go to GRC.

As to the theoretical side of Q-Thrusters, Dr. White has just developed the first cut at a quantum vacuum (QV) based plasma code written in C+ under Windows/Unix and VMD visualization software that utilizes the COMSOL E&M derived field data for a given thruster geometry that allows one to track the movement and velocity of a subset of the QV’s electron/positron neutral plasma pairs in the thruster over time as they respond to the applied time varying RF E&M fields in the copper frustum resonant cavity and to each other. This package also allows one to calculate the expected thrust for a given input power and quality factor of the frustum resonant cavity based of standard plasma rocket physics. So far the estimated thrust verses experimental observations are within 2% for the first experimental data run I compared it to, but we still have a long, long road ahead of us of experimental validation before we have any real confidence in this very new Q-Thruster design tool.

Six months ago there was the big splash from the EMdrive and Cannae drive results.

The 21 page Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum paper is online at Libertarian News.

Abstract – Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum

This paper describes the test campaigns designed to investigate and demonstrate viability of using classical magnetoplasmadynamics to obtain a propulsive momentum transfer via the quantum vacuum virtual plasma. This paper will not address the physics of the quantum vacuum plasma thruster (QVPT), but instead will describe the recent test campaign. In addition, it contains a brief description of the supporting radio frequency (RF) field analysis, ssons learned, and potential applications of the technology to space exploration missions. During the first (Cannae) portion of the campaign, approximately 40 micronewtons of thrust were observed in an RF resonant cavity test article excited at approximately 935 megahertz and 28 watts. During the subsequent (tapered cavity) portion of the campaign, approximately 91 micronewtons of thrust were observed in an RF resonant cavity test article excited at approximately 1933 megahertz and 17 watts. Testing was performed on a low-thrust torsion pendulum that is capable of detecting force at a single-digit micronewton level. Test campaign results indicate that the RF 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.

From the Full paper

Talk Polywell had an interesting comment on the full paper

Eagleworks tested one tapered (frustum) cavity, aka Shawyer’s EmDrive; and two Cannae drives which are also asymmetric but different resonant cavities. The Cannae drive is said to work on a purported different principle than the EmDrive, according to its inventor Guido Fetta (a net Lorentz force imbalance of electrons upon top vs bottom wall of the cavity). According to this purported working principle, one Cannae drive had radial slots on its rim as required by Fetta in order to produce net thrust, and the second Cannae drive didn’t have those slits and was intended to be a “null test device”. But the Cannae null test article… also produced net thrust (20 to 40 µN of net thrust depending of the forward or backward direction).

The null device having thrust means that the Cannae drive theory that the slits mattered was not true. However, this is irrelevant as to whether the Cannae drive produces thrust. Another theoretical explanation is needed but the anomalous thrust remains

We’re talking of net thrust because of course the setup was also tested with a null 50 ohm load connected, in order to cancel the effect from the drives and detect any detect any spurious force due to EM coupling with the whole apparatus (which exists, at 9.6 µN) and this “null” spurious force was evidently subtracted from any thrust signal due to the drives then tested on the pendulum.

All tests articles (the EmDrive version, the Cannae drive version, and even the Cannae “null test” version) had a dielectric embedded within. This is a hint for a different theoretical explanation involving EM fields, proper acceleration, mass fluctuation and dielectrics. Maybe Mach effects (due to Mach’s principle), as supposed by Woodward and Fearn within the GR theory, or within a scalar-tensor theory of gravity according to Minotti.

The Cannae drive website from 2011 is still available on the web archive. Guido Fetta’s Q drive work and his expectation to revolutionize space travel are on the site.

Fetta’s experimental results are detailed. Also, numerical work and what he believes are the Principles.

EMDrive thrust does not seem to scale with higher Q with these tests

What space missions are possible with early versions if this is true?

Based on test data and theoretical model development, 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. The following figures show the value proposition for this class of electric propulsion. A conservative 300 kilowatt solar electric propulsion roundtrip human exploration class mission to Mars/Deimos. A 90 metric ton 2 megawatt (MW) nuclear electric propulsion mission to Mars that has considerable reduction in transit times due to having a thrust to mass ratio greater than the gravitational acceleration of the Sun (0.6 milli-g’s at 1 AU). The same spacecraft mass performing a roundtrip mission to the Saturn system spending over a year around two moons of interest, Titan and Enceladus. Even in this last class of mission which requires only a single heavy lift launch vehicle, the mission has less mission duration than is common with a current conjunction-class Mars mission using chemical propulsion systems and which would require multiple heavy lift launch vehicles. 300 kW SEP Roundtrip Mission to Mars Deimos (50 day stay) departing from DRO 300 kW SEP

What are the next research steps ?

The lessons learned with antenna design and location have been factored in and the design of both the drive and sense antenna s have been explicitly optimized to excite the RF thruster at the target frequency and mode (e.g.,the optimal location has been analytically determined). The thrust performance of this next generation tapered test article has been analytically determined to be in the 0.1 newton per kilowatt regime. Vacuum compatible RF amplifiers with power ranges of up to 125 watts will allow testing at vacuum conditions which was not possible using our current RF amplifiers due to the presence of electrolytic capacitors. The tapered thruster has a mechanical design such that it will be able to hold pressure at 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi) inside of the thruster body while the thruster is tested at vacuum to preclude glow discharge within the thruster body while it is being operated at high power. A phase lock loop (PLL) solution has already been implemented and evaluated at the 1 GHz frequency range, and is being tailored to be able to support testing at multiple set points all the way up to 2.5 GHz. The near term objective is to complete a Q -thruster breadboard test article that is capable of being shipped to other locations which possess the ability to measure low thrust for independent verification and validation (IV&V) of the technology. The current plan is to support an IV&V test campaign at the Glenn Research Center (GRC) using their low thrust torsion pendulum followed by a repeat campaign at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) using their low thrust torsion pendulum. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has also expressed an interest in performing a Cavendish Balance style test with the IV and V shipset