EM-Drive is an electromagnetic thruster that uses a radio frequency resonant cavity to generate propulsion without consuming any kind of propellant, what converts it into an ideal thrust system to be used in spacecraft.
Since it is a system that does not require reaction mass, apparently violating the law of conservation of momentum, it has been a subject of interest in the field of theoretical physics for the last ten years. During this time, however, the first claims of experimental demonstration of the concept have withstood an initial round of scrutiny (Chinese NWPU, SLR Ltd, NASA, Dresden University), which has turn out a quoted performance superior to the present state-of-the-art in-space propulsion technology.
The objective of this project was to develop the theoretical understanding of the EM-Drive working principle, which could come to revolutionise the spaceflight propulsion within the next years.
On modern telecom satellite, electric propulsion is now being used for both transfer and station keeping, and is hence the only propulsion system on-board. This means that the amount of Xenon on-board has increased substantially from the previous 200-350 kg to 800-1500 kg. The satellite operators’ requirement on the knowledge of “remaining mass” has however remained the same, since it is directly linked to end date of the mission and therefore the amount of profit the operator will make. This means that the required precision of the density measurements is much higher than before This leads to a need to improve the current estimation methods.
The task of the Gruop regarding this project was to enhance the current way of performing propellant gauging and to identify a new and more effective way of monitoring the amount the propellant on a spacecraft.
Regarding the matter of the standing Planetary Protection Policy, and with relation to the selection of the ExoMars 2020 landing site, Prof. Martín-Torres and Prof. Zorzano were invited to be part of a small group of experts, convened by the European Space Foundation (www.esf.org), to contribute insights into the conditions of the pre-selected landing sites. This request departed from an initiative of the European Space Agency Planetary Protection Officer, Gerhard Kminek, intended to frame the mission into a Planetary Protection perspective.
Their advice was taken into account in order to asses or predict what the environmental conditions may be at the surface, and to evaluate if the conditions of the so-called “Special Regions” are met and thus if “extra-cleaning” needs to be put in place.