DARPA funds developing QI for space propulsion

 DARPA is giving $1.3 million for a four-year study of quantized inertia (QI) for possible breakthrough space propulsion.

The QI theory predicts that objects can be pushed by differences in the intensity of so-called Unruh radiation in space, similar to the way in which a ship can be pushed towards a dock because there are more waves hitting it from the seaward side.

The theory has already predicted galaxy rotation without dark matter, and the fact that if a system is accelerated enough – such as a spinning disc or light bouncing between mirrors – the Unruh waves it sees can be influenced by a shield. Therefore, if a damper is placed above the object, it should produce a new kind of upwards thrust.

Chemical rockets are very expensive because of the explosive propellant they need, so this new kind of thruster would be much cheaper and safer as it would only need a source of electrical power to accelerate the core of a thruster.

The research is being funded through DARPA’s Nascent Light-Matter Interactions (NLM) program, which aims to improve the fundamental understanding of how to control the interaction of light and engineered materials.

It will see Dr McCulloch collaborating with experimental scientists from the Technische Universität Dresden in Germany, and the University of Alcala in Spain.

Over the first 18 months, the Plymouth team will seek to develop a fully predictive theoretical model of how matter interacts with light (Unruh radiation) using the quantized inertia model. This will provide a new predictive tool for light-matter interactions.

A series of experiments will then be conducted in Germany and Spain to test whether the thrust is specifically due to quantized inertia, and whether it can be enhanced significantly.