Could the helical engine be the future of spaceflight ? Image Credit: NASA
NASA engineer David Burns has developed a concept for a new drive capable of reaching distant solar systems.
Traversing the vast distances between stars is undoubtedly a major problem - even reaching our nearest neighbor with today's technology would take thousands of years.
But what if it was possible to travel such distances in a fraction of the time ?
Enter David Burns - a NASA engineer with a concept for a new type of propulsion system that can theoretically reach 99% of the speed of light without needing any sort of propellant.
Known as the 'helical engine', this exotic drive works by exploiting the change in mass that occurs at relativistic speeds as described in Einstein's special theory of relativity.
The idea has drawn comparisons to aerospace engineer Roger Shawyer's controversial EmDrive.
"The engine accelerates ions confined in a loop to moderate relativistic speeds, and then varies their velocity to make slight changes to their mass," Burns writes. "The engine then moves ions back and forth along the direction of travel to produce thrust."
"The engine has no moving parts other than ions traveling in a vacuum line, trapped inside electric and magnetic fields."
While the drive only exists on paper at the moment, the idea behind it is certainly interesting.
Whether it will actually work in practice however remains to be seen.
Source: Science Alert | Comments (13)