Photo: NASA, Les Bossinas

The science is out on NASA’s controversial EM Drive. But so is the jury. The EM Drive, or electromagnetic drive, is a propulsion device that reportedly works without rocket fuel by bouncing microwaves around inside a cone-shaped, metal chamber. The problem is, it violates our current understanding of the laws of physics.

NASA’s Eagleworks Laboratory team just published the first peer-reviewed study of the thruster after rigorous studies showing that, at first glance, the EM Drive appears to work. The study is titled “Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum,” and is available online in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)’s Journal of Propulsion and Power.

The team’s studies showed that the prototype EM Drive could consistently produce a significant amount of thrust. Even so, the scientific community remains skeptical about a technology that defies our current understanding of how the universe works. More research needs to be done to confirm the EM Drive’s initial test results.

Meanwhile, the EM Drive has generated a flurry of excitement, even if it turns out to be an impossibility in the real world. Such a technology could open a new age in space exploration, providing cheaper, lighter and faster spacecrafts than ever before. For now, the anomalous technology has been taken out of the realm of pseudoscience and given a serious look. Time will tell if it will withstand the rigors of continued testing.