Force
Forces and Motion

The controversial thruster

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 IOP RESOURCES

For many years there has been speculation that the propagation of an electromagnetic field inside a microwave cavity might be used to generate thrust. Rumours surrounding the development of a device based on this principle increased in 2016 when a team at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre published a paper claiming some successful results from experiments with an electromagnetic propulsion device. They report measuring a thrust to power ratio of 1.2  ×  10 -6 N/W. However, their result is controversial as it may imply a violation of Newton’s third law and a number of early critiques of the research have appeared online.

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