Superfast spaceplane step closer to reality

Reported by Fiona Willan, ninemsn
Thursday, November 29, 2012
The Skylon spaceplane.

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Engineers claim they are a step closer to enabling a plane to launch into space and fly around the world in four hours after successful tests on a new superfast jet engine.

UK-based company Reaction Engines announced this week it had overcome a technical obstacle that held back progress on the Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) for three decades.

"Successful tests have been completed on key technology for Sabre, an engine which will enable aircraft to reach the opposite side of the world in under four hours or to fly directly into orbit and return in a single stage, taking off and landing on a runway," the company said in a statement.

Sabre is an air-breathing engine that uses both jet turbine and rocket technology.

Reaction Engines plans to use the engine in an 84m-long vehicle called Skylon that would do the job of a big rocket but operate like an airliner, taking off and landing at an airport runway.

The engine can cool air from more than 1000C to minus 150C in less than a hundredth of a second and a plane with a Sabre engine would have the potential to accelerate at five times the speed of sound.

The European Space Agency this week evaluated the design and found all objectives had been met.

"The pre-cooler test objectives have all been successfully met and ESA are satisfied that the tests demonstrate the technology required for the Sabre engine development," the agency said.

Reaction Engines said on its website test results were "the biggest breakthrough in aerospace propulsion technology since the invention of the jet engine".

"Independent experts have confirmed that the full engine can now be demonstrated," REL founder Alan Bond said.

"This is the proudest moment of my life."

The company needs $382 million to turn the project into reality.

02/08/2014 18:36Sydney, Australia. 2 August,2014
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