NASA Engineer David Burns Concepts a Spacecraft Engine Running at the Speed ​​of Light

David Burns, NASA engineer, has designed an engine based on the concept of the speed of light. 

This engine could achieve about 99 percent of the speed of light theoretically.

The special feature of Burns' theoretical engine concept is that 'this engine does not use any type of propellant'. 

He disclosed this concept in a head spinning paper posted on NASA's website. 

To better explain their concept, they describe a box containing weights, as a thought experiment. 

Threaded on a line, the weight bounces back and forth with a spring at each end.  

In a vacuum - such as space - the effect of this would be to shake the entire box, in which the weight seems to be constant.

Simply put - the speed of light works by taking advantages of the changes in mass caused by the speed of light.

The helical engine, or the engine of the speed of light, spins around it using a high-tech particle accelerator found at Large Hadron Collider - LHC.

Small particles are ejected at high speed using electromagnets. The engine surround is recycled, and re-fired.

Dr Burns Says that - 'Using a loophole in the laws of physics, an engine with the speed of light could theoretically achieve the about 297 million meters per second'.

The engine of the speed of light accelerates the ions confined in a loop to moderate relativistic speeds. 

And then their velocity changes to make a slight change in their mass structure.

The light-speed engine pushes the ions back and forth in the direction of travel to generate thrust. 

This in-space engine can also be used for long-term maintenance of the satellite station without refueling.

When a ring is tossed in one direction, the box twists in the other direction, as described in Newton's laws of motion.

Every action should have an equal and opposite reaction. When the ring reaches the end of the box, it will bounce back, and the recoil direction of the box will also change.

Overall, the box will continue to swing in the same place. 

But if the mass of the object moves in only one direction, it will generate a greater push in that direction, and hence the thrust.

According to the theory of special relativity, objects gains mass as they achieve the speed of light. If you replace the weights with ions and the box with loops.

You could theoretically have the ions moving faster at one end of the loop, and slower at the other. 

The helical chamber must be very large. About 200 meter long and 12 meter in diameter, to be precise.  

And it would need to generate 165 MW of energy to generate 1 Newton of thrust.

It is similar to a power station that generates the force needed to accelerate a kilogram of mass per second squared.

If the light-speed engine even worked in practice, it would have other disadvantages as well. 

According to the science website 'New Scientist' Helical engine at the speed of light that was 200 meters long would produce the same force as typing on a keyboard.

So, while Burns may be correct that it can accelerate to near-light speed, it will take a very long time.

Traveling at such speeds, the theoretical machine could take astronauts to Mars in less than 13 minutes or to the Moon in just a bit.

Traveling at this speed, light will struggle to keep up with you, distorting your vision in bizarre ways.  

However, the real purpose of the so-called "helical engine" would be to travel to farther stars than any existing technology" according to Dr. David Burns.

An invention that immediately created a buzz. In fact, If Dr. Burns's engine of the speed of light works as he predicted, it is an open door for all space travel.

For today, even our most modern spacecraft, even those of Elon Musk, are lagging miserably. 

It takes years, even centuries, for them to reach the smallest exoplanets.

This makes it impossible to plan for any human conquest of deep space for some time to come.

But if we can travel at 1 billion km/h, that is, about the speed of light, then the sidereal world is within reach.

The concept, which Burns acknowledged is not certain whether it is feasible, draws inspiration from high-tech particle accelerators. Similar to LHC. 

It's not the only thing holding the helical engine back. 

Burns conceded that it would have to be 198 meters long and 12 meters wide for it to work.

He have another idea. He wants to do without the propellant and go beyond the principle of action-reaction. He doesn't need it in his concept.

He has read the theory of relativity and in particular the theory of special relativity which states that objects gain mass as they achieve the speed of light.

If you take a one kilogram block of stone and move it at a speed of 380,000 km/s, It will weigh about several tons.

Traveling at this speed of light will struggle to keep up with you, distorting your vision in strange ways.

Everything behind you will appear black, and time will appear to stop completely, the clocks will creep slowly and the planets will stop spinning.

At such speeds, according to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, as the ring approaches the end of the box, the mass will increase.

This means that when it reaches the end of the box it will hit harder, resulting in further motion. 

The light-speed engine itself would achieve a similar feat using particle accelerators and ions particles, but that's the general gist.

Today's rockets, such as those made by NASA and SpaceX, would require tons of propellant, such as liquid hydrogen, to carry people to Mars and beyond.

NASA is considering the possibility of using ice and water as rocket fuel on the surface of the Moon, but any potential solution will likely take years, not decades.


  1. Really amazing idea. I just see one problem. Moving at the speed of light means you have no ability to avoid collisions with anything. Seeing that you'd be moving between starts you'd have little light to detect objects and even a small dime sized object would be enough to tare the ship to ribbons at that speed. How do we protect the ship?

    1. Your astronauts need to take spice from the planet Dune that allows you to plot your course into the future allowing you to see the risk of taking different routes. The route with no collisions in the future is the safest route you would take.

  2. Yes it will work. It could be sling shot out of the solar system but it would take decades to achieve any type of automation. It would be halfway out of the galaxy before it achieved lights peed. No brakes. It would exceed the speed of light and head out for nowhere. One big if. If it didn't hit something first.

  3. How many years take to speed up and stop this engine?

  4. Can the materials used to build it, be able to take the pressure it would cause at that speed, if not they would have to shield the ship somehow. As we already have experienced with submersibles they can only go so deep before the pressure is too much.

  5. So if we build something that leaves this solar system and in many, many years hits some other planet filled life and kills those how do we explain to that other life force that we built something by the lowest bidder that we sent into space not knowing where it would go only sending a map of where this thing came from. Does this bother anyone else.

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