Sep 15, 2017 I Brett Tingley

Chinese Scientists Claim to Have Working EM Drive Prototype

The ongoing saga of the EM Drive has been one of the more intriguing space stories lately. The story goes back a few decades when U.K.-based inventor and physicist Roger Shawyer came up with the concept. The EM Drive requires no fuel, but uses powerful electromagnetic radiation and a loophole in the laws of physics to create thrust where there should basically be none. Over the last year, the EM Drive has been in and out of the news with leaked documents, publicly-available patents, and full-scale tests of the groundbreaking and controversial propulsion device. If the EM Drive lives up to the hype, it could be the first step in mankind’s quest to achieve true interstellar travel.

em drive
Artist's depiction of how the EM Drive works.

With such high stakes, you’d think the various space agencies of the world would cooperate in order to get a working EM Drive in space, but you know how humans are. Tribalism wins every time. The EM Drive has set in motion somewhat of a new mini-space race between China and the West. Chinese scientists announced last year that they had a successful EM Drive working in space, but doubts were cast on those claims in the West due to no real demonstration of the drive. Now, Chinese state media have released a video they claim shows their working EM Drive.

The video is titled “Propellantless propulsion: The Chinese EmDrive by CAST scientist Dr Chen Yue, China's Space Agency,” and shows scientists performing various tests on the alleged working EM Drive. Aside from good ol’ British tabloids, few Western news outlets have jumped on the story, possibly due to the current lack of subtitles or translations.

china emdrive
The video could just be Chinese state propaganda designed to further demoralize the underfunded American aerospace program.

So far, the story seems to be mostly covered by Chinese and Russian news agencies. With all of the turmoil in the U.S. over the future of NASA and its leadership, could this be merely more shadowy agitprop aimed at discouraging any future development of our storied and successful space program? Time will tell, as the Chinese scientists claim to soon launch a working EM Drive into space for actual testing.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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