- For years, a fringe theory challenging Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, known as quantized inertia (QI), has been used in attempts to create propellant-less engines.
- Now, this idea will be put to its biggest test yet. American company IVO Ltd. recently launched a quantum drive based on the principles of QI theory as part of SpaceX’s Transporter 9 mission.
- In a few weeks, the company will test its onboard quantum drive to see if it can change the orbit of its Barry-1 satellite.
When it comes to theories of gravity and motion, Isaac Newton’s name comes to the top. The 17th century English astrologer created laws that helped humanity understand the physics underlying our natural life. But only As some scientists question Whether Newton’s (and, later, Einstein’s) ideas fully explain the nature of gravity, a small but persistent minority similarly challenges Newton’s laws of motion – in particular, with respect to inertia. .
One of those fringe theories is an idea called Quantized Inertia (QI), Which was first proposed by Mike McCulloch at the University of Plymouth in 2007. If that name sounds familiar, McCulloch is the mastermind behind the EmDrive – a theoretical device described as an “impossible engine” because it doesn’t rely on propellant for motion. Instead, it relies on the complex inner workings of quantum mechanics to get its small-but-supposedly-noticeable thrust. Despite more than a decade of widespread criticism, the QI idea has persisted, and the embattled theory now faces its final test.
Last weekend, American wireless power company IVO Ltd. launched its first all-electric satellite propulsion system as part of the Transporter 9 mission. IVO says the launch was successful and the team established contact with its satellite Barry-1 on Monday. talking with Brief summaryCompany founder Richard Mansell says that his device relies on the principle of QI (i.e. not requiring propellant for thrust), but uses different technologies than McCulloch’s mDrive.
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IVO claims that its engine can achieve 52 millinewton (mN) of thrust from just one watt of power. If true, this is a major step up from Hall-effect thrusters (also known as ion thrusters), which have lower overall energy efficiency. The quantum drive also weighs only 300 grams, while an ion engine can weigh more than 200. KilogramInteresting engineering wise.
But Mansell had to defend his Quantum Drive against similar criticism, despite technical differences from McCulloch’s controversial mDrive.
“The principle of quantized inertia offers some unique ways to move spacecraft without fuel and without violating Newton’s laws of motion,” Mansell told Universe Today Back in March. “The quantum drive uses electricity and our patent pending configuration to move the spacecraft. This configuration has been tested as far as possible on the Earth’s surface. The next and definitive test will be in LEO.”
Barry-1 includes a pair of quantum drives that will now orbit Earth for a few weeks to establish baseline data, before the satellite tries to change its orbit using its onboard quantum drives. So, in a month or two, either Newton will be proven right once again, or the “impossible” will start looking much more possible. Like all good science, we’ll let the experiment decide.
Darren lives in Portland, has a cat, and writes/edits about science fiction and how our world works. If you look hard enough you can find his previous stuff on Gizmodo and Paste.