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A Microwave-Powered Rocket Engine Could Be The Future Of Space Travel

21/07/2015 12:38 BST | Updated 21/07/2015 12:59 BST

Putting objects into space is really really difficult, it's also hugely expensive which is why companies are constantly looking for new and cheaper ways to keep the space race moving.

escape dynamics

The test vehicle would be unmanned and designed to deliver satellites.

One such company is Escape Dynamics which claims to have created a revolutionary new propulsion system that lifts the rocket off the ground using nothing but....microwaves.

The system works by firing a directed beam of microwaves at the underside of the spacecraft where a heat exchanger sparks a small quantity of liquid hydrogen fuel.

microwave dish

A powerful group of emitters would be needed to track the craft's ascent.

A large array of emitters would track the spacecraft as it makes its ascent into space, providing the little spacecraft with a constant source of energy.

Ok so that sounds a little far-fetched and indeed it certainly doesn't sound like the easiest way to get something into space over say, piggy-backing or conventional rockets.

escape dynamics

It does come with some pretty major plus points though, the first of which is cost. If managed effectively this would be significantly cheaper as a form of travel, while also freeing up a lot of space on the ship that would normally be reserved for the rocket itself.

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The team claim to have actually built a working prototype which they say is already showing promising results. Where this idea will make or break itself though is in the scale.

At present the system hasn't tried to lift anything near the size of a spacecraft and while patience will be needed, it's something that the space industry is having increasingly less of.