British spaceplane concept gets infusion of cash

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The competition heats up: Reaction Engines, the British company developing a hybrid air-breathing rocket engine, today received obtained a significant funding boost from a new private partner as well as the British government.

The government has committed $60 million, while BAE has purchased 20% of the company with a commitment of an additional $20 million.

The craft Reaction Engines intends to eventually produce, known as Skylon, depends on the ability to cool an incoming airstream from 1,000 degrees C to minus 150 C almost instantly, at close to 1/100th of a second. That process doubles the technical limits of a jet engine, and would enable the craft to reach extremely fast speeds in Earth’s atmosphere, up to give times the speed of sound, before switching to a rocket engine to reach orbit.

Don’t start buying tickets however. They don’t expect to begin manned test flights for at least a decade


  • D.K. Williams

    This would be a remarkable achievement if the Brits can pull this off. Methinks it will take far more money than Her Majesty’s government will ultimately be willing to contribute.

  • Edward

    I have been fascinated by this concept for a few years, and I hope they succeed; they may give SpaceX and any other efficient launch providers an excellent source of competition. They have tested a ground version of their heat transfer system, “to cool an incoming airstream from 1,000 degrees C to minus 150 C almost instantly, at close to 1/100th of a second,” and it seems to have worked.

    Six months ago, the US Air Force decided that the SABRE engine concept was feasible. This gives me some confidence that Reaction Engines may succeed, as opposed to them performing some form of scam on investors.

    I have long wondered how they can cool the air to such a low temperature without clogging the heat exchanger with water ice. It could be quite some time before we know, because they are holding that proprietary information as a trade secret. I can only imagine (without any evidence or knowledge on the subject) that ice crystals don’t form fast enough to cling to the heat exchanger in the time (perhaps a little over a millisecond) that they have from reaching the freezing point to exiting the heat exchanger system.

    For those who are interesed, this link helps to explain the engine, including the need to cool the air to such low temperature:

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