In the escalating space-race that has been re-kindled between the world’s spacefaring nations, the controversial EM Drive could be taking a leading role in propelling new spacecraft through the cosmos, as China has not only successfully tested their own version of the reactionless propulsion device, but NASA has also published a paper saying that the device does indeed work. China has now taken the next step in proving whether or not the device will be viable for use in space, and is currently conducting experiments on a proof-of-concept drive on board the Tiangong-2 space station.

The radio frequency resonant cavity thruster, better known as the EM Drive, was invented by engineer Roger Shawyer in 2001, and apparently produces thrust without having to expel a reactant; an effect that, according to the device’s critics, would violate Newton’s Third Law. The cone-shaped device makes use of microwaves that rebound back and forth inside the chamber, producing what is theorized to be an internal asymmetric field that produces thrust.

The drive is powered solely by electricity, meaning that the device would not only be able to produce continuous thrust, but a vehicle equipped with reactantless engines also wouldn’t have to carry bulky propellant to expend.

If the EM Drive proves to be a viable form of propulsion — and there is currently too much professional interest in the device to simply dismiss its potential — space travel might take on a very different form in the next few decades, as a thruster capable of continuous acceleration would cut travel times dramatically: for instance, a trip to Mars would be shortened to mere weeks, as opposed to being measured in months, as it is now.