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  Reaction Engines Ltd.'s Skylon spaceplane

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Author Topic:   Reaction Engines Ltd.'s Skylon spaceplane
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 29682
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-19-2009 11:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Reaction Engine Limited release
The Rocket That Thinks It's A Jet

The SKYLON spaceplane is one step closer to realization thanks to European Space Agency and UK Government support for revolutionary British propulsion technology.

A reusable spaceplane that can take off from a conventional aircraft runway, carry over twelve tonnes to orbit and then return to land on the same runway could be less than a decade away thanks to a one million euro award by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The contract awarded to Reaction Engines Limited (REL), is part of a joint public and private multi-million pound development programme, that will demonstrate the core technologies for the SABRE air-breathing rocket engine, which will power the SKYLON spaceplane.

Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Innovation, said:

"This is an example of a British company developing world beating technology with exciting consequences for the future of space. It is fantastic that Reaction Engines, the British National Space Centre and ESA have successfully secured this public-private partnership arrangement and I look forward to seeing how the project progresses."

The SABRE is a unique hybrid engine that can "breathe" air when in the atmosphere, like a jet engine, and become a rocket engine when in space. In air-breathing mode air is first cooled by a revolutionary heat exchanger pre-cooler before being compressed and fed to the rocket engine to be burned with hydrogen fuel. When in rocket mode the hydrogen is burnt with liquid oxygen.

Alan Bond, Managing Director of REL, said: "Traditional throw-away rockets costing more than a $100 million per launch are a drag on the growth of this market. The Holy Grail to transform the economics of getting into space is to use a truly reusable spaceplane capable of taking off from an airport and climbing directly into space, delivering its satellite payload and automatically returning safely to Earth.

"Years of planning and research by REL on the SKYLON vehicle and its unique SABRE engine mean that we have an inside track on realising this goal. SKYLON could reduce the cost of getting into space by a factor of ten and improve the reliability by a thousand."

The demonstration programme has the objective of removing all the outstanding technical concerns on the SABRE engine. This will pave the way to a full engine development programme as part of the overall development of SKYLON. Cheap, easy and reliable access to space is critical to the development of the global space market, now worth more than $150 billion a year worldwide.

The demonstration programme will look at three key areas in the engine.

The first area, conducted by REL, concerns the revolutionary precooler that cools the incoming air as it enters the engine. During the programme a test precooler will be constructed using the actual module design for the flight engines. This will be tested on the company's B9 jet engine experimental facility at Culham in Oxfordshire.

The second area is the cooling of the combustion chamber, where the propellants are mixed and burnt producing water vapour at around 3,000oC. The SABRE engine uses the air or liquid oxygen as the cooling fluid - a key and unusual design feature as most rocket engines use the hydrogen fuel for cooling instead. EADS Astrium and DLR in Germany will be conducting this work using demonstration chambers fired at the DLR Lampoldhausen facility.

The third area, led by the University of Bristol, will explore advanced exhaust nozzles that can adapt to the ambient atmospheric pressure. This follows on from the successful STERN (Static Test of ED Rocket Nozzle) test rocket programme that was conducted last year. As part of the ESA contract a new water cooled chamber will be constructed and test fired.


Posts: 3214
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-29-2012 08:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
BBC News reports that testing has begun on Skylon's engines.
UK engineers have begun critical tests on a new engine technology designed to lift a spaceplane into orbit.

The proposed Skylon vehicle would operate like an airliner, taking off and landing at a conventional runway.

Its major innovation is the Sabre engine, which can breathe air like a jet at lower speeds but switch to a rocket mode in the high atmosphere.

Reaction Engines Limited (REL) believes the test campaign will prove the readiness of Sabre's key elements.


Posts: 3176
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 04-30-2012 09:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not strictly the engine that will be used in the real thing. They were testing the radical new cooling system on a standard Rolls Royce Viper engine from a BAe Jet Provost.


Posts: 454
From: CA.
Registered: Jan 2011

posted 08-06-2013 11:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to BBC News, a consortium of companies will try to establish the business case for a reusable space plane in an ESA funded study.
ESA is providing £1m for the study, to be completed by the end of the year.

It will look at how a Skylon vehicle might operate in a market for satellite launches from the early 2020s onwards.

The research will be led by REL themselves. It will address the economics and some of the outstanding technical issues.

The latter includes examining the type of spaceport needed by the vehicle; and the team will visit French Guiana to see how a Skylon could fly out of Europe's existing launch facility in the territory.

There will be work done also to define more clearly the upper-stage carrier required for the Skylon concept.

Editor's note: Threads merged.


Posts: 270
From: Bristol UK
Registered: Jan 2005

posted 08-08-2013 05:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for star61   Click Here to Email star61     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
With regards to the viper test, I believe it was used just as a source of super heated and fast flowing air in front of the pre-cooler.

Hence, it merely facilitates the demonstration of said pre-cooler and nothing else.


Posts: 238
From: London, UK
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 05-29-2014 06:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for minipci     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Skylon spaceplane economics stack up, reports BBC News.
It appears a feasible proposition, economically. That is the conclusion of a study that considered a European launch service based on a Skylon re-usable spaceplane.

The report, commissioned by the European Space Agency (Esa), was led by Reaction Engines Limited (REL) of Oxfordshire with help from a range of other contractors such as London Economics, QinetiQ and Thales Alenia Space (TAS).

All times are CT (US)

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