The UK developer of the EmDrive microwave propulsion system is to test the technology in space, writes Rob Coppinger.

The EmDrive generates thrust from microwaves and, during an October 2006 experiment, the demonstrater produced a specific thrust of 287mN/kW moving 100kg (220lb) at up to 2cm/s (3.9ft/min).

Inventor Roger Shawyer says he is developing a flight-unit thruster for an undisclosed partner. This will be integrated into a satellite in May 2009 for an unspecified launch date.

The thruster will be married with an existing space-qualified microwave source to produce 85mN of thrust with 300W of  power.

"We have had interest from commercial and defence organisations and had an interesting trip to the USA," says Shawyer, whose work has been supported by private finanacing and UK government funding.

For satellites the EmDrive thruster would be used for orbit and attitude-control, but Shawyer predicts a second-generation superconducting EmDrive could replace the wing, and with 1kW of power could achieve 3t of lift.

Shawyer's work is controversial in some quarters. See what New Scientist readers say about it and his response to them.

Source: Flight International