The EmDrive is officially headed for its moment of truth, and it’s just a few months away. The physics-violating propulsion device could theoretically open the door to interstellar travel if it somehow works — and while that “if” is pretty damn gigantic, we’re soon going to have a much better sense of how (un)realistic the EmDrive actually is, as the first peer-reviewed paper on the device drops in the December issue of the Journal of Propulsion and Power.
Two days after a scientist left a post on the NASASpaceflight.com forums saying he had heard a peer-reviewed journal had accepted a paper on the device, multiple publications have now confirmed the story with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which publishes the Journal of Propulsion and Power. IBTimes, which first reported the story, received confirmation from an AIAA spokesperson that a paper on electromagnetic propulsion is set for publication in the December 2016 issue. IFLScience published this full statement from the institute:
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.”
Note that this statement makes no specific mention of the EmDrive nor of the NASA-affiliated Eagleworks, the experimental lab tasked with investigating fringe engineering ideas that have been working on the device. If you squint, there’s room here for the paper in question to be dealing with the topic of electromagnetic propulsion without actually being about the Eagleworks team’s results. But given that rumors of a peer-reviewed paper go all the way back to March, it seems relatively likely this is indeed about the EmDrive.
EmDrive is moving out of the shadows
Still, the mere fact of peer-reviewed publication — or even the slightly wilder rumors that the paper will have positive news on the EmDrive’s capabilities — doesn’t mean that much, at least not in terms of whether the thing actually works. What peer review hopefully means is that the EmDrive is moving out of the shadows, with actual data and results that scientists elsewhere can attempt to replicate and then either substantiate or refute. If there’s anything to the EmDrive, then it has to — at the very least — stand up to basic scientific scrutiny, and this is the critical first step in that process.
Either the EmDrive is about to shock the world, or skeptics will soon be able to dismiss the idea with actual, experimental data, as opposed to more theoretical objections. Whichever way things go — and the latter is certainly way more probable — we’re finally going to have a chance to learn something real and specific about the EmDrive. That alone is exciting.
In the meantime, hear more about the EmDrive from the man who first came up with the idea for the device, as Roger Shawyer explains the concept in a 2015 interview.