The following is in the words of the inventor of StarDrive himself, Dennis Plews. Take a moment to follow his journey from idea to inception, as he works to make Star Trek’s renowned “Impulse Drive” a reality.
When I became interested in seeing whether it is possible to use the angular momentum of weights that are spinning about a central axis to generate useful thrust for a spacecraft, I did a patent search to see if it had already been done. In reading the patents of several prior efforts to convert angular momentum directly into linear thrust, it was clear to me that all of the prior efforts suffered from a common flaw, a connecting rod of one sort or another, between the reaction mass and the rotational axis. The predictable result was that all these devices were only simple oscillators that needed a ratchet of some sort in order to move in a line. The “reset” of the reaction mass to the initial point from where it was accelerated was attempting to generate thrust always occurred greater than 90 degrees out from the initial acceleration point. The predictable result was just a “buzzer” that needs a ratchet foot to go anywhere.
It seemed then that if the reset could be made to happen at any place less than 90 degrees from the initial acceleration point, it might be possible to avoid the oscillator demise and actually produce thrust. I built the metal Mark I version, shown in the video, to demonstrate that the thrust masses come off the acceleration ramp, and then take a tangent path back to the outer radius of the gyration path without hitting the bottom of their cavity, thus avoiding the oscillator death knell. Since Newton’s Laws of Motion mandate that the ramp feel the same push that it gives to the thrust mass, with no countering push, there is a resulting reaction force imparted to the ramp and all that to which it is attached. Without a cancelling counter-oscillation, I think it is fair to call that reaction force felt by the acceleration ramp, Thrust!
My initial effort, in the form of the Mark I version does show the tangent path took the reaction masses to their initial starting point within 90 degrees of the ramp, but it was too heavy to move with the little bit of thrust it generated. Like all good experiments, it taught me that something more than a single capture disk was needed. It also convinced me that I needed to find someone with Computer Assisted Design (CAD) ability so I could begin getting a better handle on the issues that this type of device presents. I found Lisa Fitzgerald (http://andro-tech.com/index.html) who has Solid Works and Cosmos Motion experience. However, because I was primarily interested in space applications, I insisted that the CAD model be set up in a zero gravity field simulation as anything less wouldn’t show me what I needed to know. It took some effort by Lisa to create a simulated zero g field, but she did it.
When we put the current proof of concept design into Cosmos Motion in the simulated zero g field, it immediately began moving in a straight line. It was then that I had the 3D printed proof of concept version created. You can see it in the pool test and Load Cell test videos. When it gave me the anticipated result, I reconfigured the ramps to see if the thrust could be increased. I retested it and obtained a similar result. So far, the device has successfully passed 3 of 3 tests, the initial Cosmos Motion CAD test, and both pool tests. To rule out the possibility of false positives, I built a four pole test bed so that we could begin load cell testing. The results of that testing are consistent with thrust being generated. Due to the extreme limitations of the proof of concept version, mnimal thrust was all that was anticipated,. To further understand what StarDrive does, I compared the centripetal force energy levels, generated by the thrust masses as they move at the outermost distance from the axis of rotation, with the centripetal force energy level generated when the thrust masses are moved to the innermost rotation position when they pass over the acceleration ramps. I then calculated the force needed to move the thrust weight in that manner. As anticipated, the results matched favorably. I then used the momentum of the thrust masses at both the outer and inner positions and compared that difference to the first two results finding again that they all were giving comparable results. StarDrive has passed its tests and the math tells us why. The load cell test result and the mathematical analysis are set out below.
A few questions remain. My hope is to answer these questions with a full size model that will be made possible if we reach our contribution goal.
Can useful amounts of thrust be generated?
Can StarDrive be designed to make it sufficiently durable to be practical?
Will it be more efficient than current technologies?
What unexpected issues will show up?
We have already begun to solve the first three anticipated issues and it looks like each will be able to be solved with existing materials and design techniques. I have already filed an amendment to the patent with the upgrade that is expected to fit the mathematical analysis and increases the thrust output tremendously. As with all things never done before, however, we won’t really know until we have a prototype design being completed and tested with a program like Ansys (http://www.ansys.com/) . Once we have that, a full scale physical prototype will be built and put to work demonstrating to everyone interested in the next generation of travel through space, and right here on Earth, what a real impulse drive can do.
All that is needed to make impulse drive a reality is for enough people to engage and make contributions to the project. Join with us and help us continue this journey of exploration.