Sklyon Space Plane Could Travel At Speeds Of Mach 5 With Sabre Engine
Skylon space plane concept with Sabre engine aims to travel at speeds of Mach 5…
A small British aerospace company claims new developments in the design of its hypersonic Skylon space place concept mark the biggest breakthrough since the since jet engine.
The Skylon space plane could, theoretically, travel to space and back without disposing of any rocket stages thanks to its Sabre engine, developed by Reaction Engines.
Reaction Engines claims that the Sabre engine could double the normal top speed of conventional jet engines from Mach 2.5 times to Mach 5. At this speed a flight from New York to Tokyo would take just a few hours.
While the company isn’t saying exactly how it works, we do know that the engine uses atmospheric air, instead of tanked oxygen.
Skylon Space Plane Will Travel At Speeds Of Mach 5
Although other vehicles like the U.S. Air Force Waverider or DARPA’s HTV-2 scramjets have also used atmospheric air to generate huge amounts of thrust, they still need rockets to reach the high speeds required for the powerful propulsion systems to engage. Reaction says its Sabre engine can switch between hypersonic speeds after taking off from a runway, without the multiple rocket stages.
The Sabre design conquers the problem of heat exchange at high speeds. Super fast-moving air that is sucked into the engine can reach up to 1,800 degree Celsius as it’s compressed before the combustion stage. This is hot enough to melt engine components. In order to counter this problem the air must be cooled extremely quickly within just one hundredth of a second.
“[The] pre-cooler technology is designed to cool the incoming airstream from over 1,000 Celsius to minus 150 Celsius in less than 1/100th of a second, without blocking with frost,” the company claimed in its press release.
The Sabre engine could take the plane to an altitude of 25km, from there the hybrid rocket propulsion system would switch to rocket mode to climb into space.
Reaction is now seeking 250 million pounds to fund the next three-year development stage, in which a small-scale version of the engine will be built and tested.
If successful the Sabre would be the first engine to take a vehicle into space using in a single stage. Such technology would pave the way for reusable space planes, reduced fuel costs, and ultimately more regular flights into orbit.
And although Skylon is many years away from production, the Sabre technology is still of huge interest to global aerospace industry and governments since it would double the technical limitations of current jet engines, and could cut the cost of space travel.
Estimates show that if the heater exchange technology was incorporated into new jet engines, it could cut the cost of airline fuel bills by 5 to 10 percent – or $10 – 20 billion.
Reaction hopes to have a sub-scale ground engine running by 2015.
- British company claims biggest engine advance since the jet. Reuters, 11/28/2012.
- Jason Paur: Hypersonic Flight ‘Breakthrough’ Could Have Us in Tokyo by Lunch. Wired, 11/30/2012.
- Clay Dillow: Skylon Spaceplane Engine Endorsed By European Space Agency. Popular Science, 11/28/2012.