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NASA Space The Almighty Buck Technology

NASA Contracting Development of New Ion/Nuclear Engines (nasaspaceflight.com) 70

schwit1 writes: NASA has awarded three different companies contracts to develop advanced ion and nuclear propulsion systems for future interplanetary missions, both manned and unmanned. These are development contacts, all below $10 million. However, they all appeared structured like NASA's cargo and crew contracts for ISS, where the contractor does all of the development and design, with NASA only supplying some support and periodic payments when the contractor achieves agreed-upon milestones. Because of this, the contractors will own the engines they develop, and will be able to sell them to other customers after development, thereby increasing the competition and innovation in the field.
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NASA Contracting Development of New Ion/Nuclear Engines

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Whatever happened with the emdrive?

    • by myrdos2 ( 989497 )

      They're still detecting small amounts of thrust, but haven't yet been able to rule out measurement error.

      • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Monday November 23, 2015 @06:31PM (#50989227) Homepage Journal
        NASA should sponsor a study into harnessing measurement error as a means of propulsion. I always keep hearing everybody talking about it.
      • They have been able to show measurement error is about an order of magnitude lower than thrust. The Eagleworks guys are focused on completely negating the measurement error to determine the exact thrust being generated so they can have better data to test against. Meanwhile the original creator of it doesn't appear to be moving forward with it, he just retired and said "use a superconducting cavity" and nobody has built one yet.
      • by delt0r ( 999393 )
        By definition that is not detecting anything. Detecting error is well detecting error. Also the experiments are sloppy as shit, it violates all laws nature we know of and they literally made up the theory that was proven wrong more than once.
    • NASA's Eagleworks Laboratory keeps finding that the thing produces thrust, but nobody has any idea why.

      http://www.biztekmojo.com/001550/nasas-new-tests-confirm-impossible-em-drive-thruster-can-really-work

      • by jpapon ( 1877296 )
        To be clear, it's not NASA scientists, it's private researchers who have rented space at NASA Eagleworks.
        • The point is that they are real scientists, following scientific rigor, with no financial interest in rigging the tests.

      • They are producing a minuscule thrust on the order of what might be EM field leakage from power supply, vapors because of vacuum and heating, etc.

        Wake me up when they can produce a pound of reactionless thrust in stead of the micronewtons of near-nothing.

    • by drwho ( 4190 )

      The EMdrive is still being worked on. There are private, and secretive, efforts to develop it, in addition to NASA research at Eagleworks. They're building test apparatus which eliminate any possibility of error from gravity, heating, etc. But they're working with very low electrical power, so the thrust they're dealing with is miniscule. There's a theory that thrust is not linear, and that the maximum efficiency is at an electrical power of 50kW, and that it's a LOT of thrust. My *hunch* is that there are

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The EMDrive is impossible and every real physicist, who studies the world based on the known experiments, knows it. And scifi fans who don't know about the history of science, but have a head full of philosophy and wishful thinking, hold out hope.

        • by drwho ( 4190 )

          It's all so easy to come in here and throw around such grandiose claims as an anonymous coward. Why don't you log in with a real account, and details your claims of hogwash.

          • by delt0r ( 999393 )
            I am not the GP. But yea the EMDrive is total bullshit. It is made up physics that was *shown* to be wrong but they went and did experiments that *showed* nothing outside errors and claimed it worked anyway. If it did work it would be a free energy device and it would mean all the laws of physics are different everywhere, like say in paris vrs NY. Since none of that is true and we have over 300 years of *experimental evidence* to back that up. The EMDrive is bullshit.
            • by drwho ( 4190 )

              I guess I should have learned by now, that the level of physics knowledge of Slashdot users ends at Newton, and they have unshakable faith in him. Ultraviolet Catastrophe is probably an alien term to many of them. But yet somehow they buy into the ideas of "dark matter" and "dark energy". I really don't have the patience or time to squabble on here. If anyone has a serious interest in this, and can plough through tons of posts by actual physicists on the matter, I will direct them to the NASASpaceFlight.com

              • by delt0r ( 999393 )
                Sooo your comparing the Ultraviolet Catastrophe which had really good solid data to back up the problems with mismatching of theory? To an over unity device with no credible data to back it up? Really? REALLY? sheesh.
        • We know physics is wrong. It is the one thing about physics we know without a doubt because we can prove it does not correlate with itself. It is a good set of rules for engineering things but to try drawing truth from it about anything beyond very well defined usage scenarios or as a singular tool in a bucket for gaining knowledge (with ALL other tools involving experimentation and reiterative feedback) is absurd.
          • by delt0r ( 999393 )
            So we should assume something that would create free energy and violate every single well defined "engineering rule" out? It would mean every bridge and building will fall down. Conservation of momentum and energy would be false if this worked. Period. Also there ZERO theory behind the emdrive. None. Oh he had some hashed out bullshit that was shown to be wrong a while back. But they can't fix what is wrong with it. Basically they guy couldn't do his math so said "whoo dude i found a propellantless drive".
      • by delt0r ( 999393 )
        The thrust of a EM drive is comparable to an ion thruster. If anything they claimed was even remotely true. It would be easy to show. But it is not true, it is bullshit. Turns out you can't get propulsion out of bullshit. Many have tried before. Hell even on of the EMdrive experimenters has a patent on an anti gravity drive. Yea real credible science right there.
      • Yeah, man. Don't forget General Motors. They don't want EM to see the light of day either.
  • Yay, VASIMR at last! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Megane ( 129182 ) on Monday November 23, 2015 @08:30PM (#50990115) Homepage

    VASIMR [wikipedia.org] has been ready to go to a full-scale trial on ISS for a while now. Then the ISS won't be so dependent upon Progress supply missions to give it orbital boosts. This thing will be powerful enough that they have to have batteries in it because the ISS solar panels aren't powerful enough to run it at full power.

    But I'd be happier if I saw a date when it would actually get launched for installation on ISS. It looks like they will still be building the first engines through summer 2016. After that it's not clear if the tests are meant to be done on ground. They're also talking about having it run for 100 continuous hours in the third year of the contract, which is more than what ISS needs, so maybe they'll send one up to ISS in 2017 or 2018?

    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      This is a cool engine. But the ion engines are sort of quite different in that they have only a "top gear" and it is much higher than a VASIMR.
  • ... thereby increasing the competition and innovation in the field.

    Forgive my bad French, but that's the sort of ideologic bullshit you can't prove. NASA saves money from an embarrassingly tiny budget; that is the only benefit this type of arrangement provides. It does the precise opposite of increasing competition, since one company will have a government-sanctioned monopoly; if it didn't and NASA placed the designs into the public domain, then ANY company could make the engines and sell them to NASA, improving NASA's supply chain. Have you forgotten why our computers

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