Today we heard the exciting news that that the UK company Reaction Engines Ltd has recently ran a series of tests on the key elements of the SABRE propulsion system. These tests were observed by the European Space Agency and they have confirmed that all the test objectives were met. This now means that a major engineering obstacle to the Skylon spaceplane becoming a reality has just been overcome.
On the Reaction Engines web site they are calling this “the biggest propulsion breakthrough since the jet engine”, and this statement is well deserved. The SABRE is an air-breathing rocket engine which utilises both jet turbine and rocket technology. Its pre-cooler technology is designed to cool the incoming airstream from over 1,000 degrees Celsius to chilling temperatures of -150 degrees Celsius. This all happens in 1/100th of a second. SABRE is intended for the Skylon spaceplane, a vehicle which could reach anywhere in the world in under 4 hours, or more importantly, fly directly into orbit and returning in a single stage – taking off and landing on a runway – so called Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO). This could be the advent of an entire new market in space launch systems and access to space, a necessary condition for the establishment of a solar system wide economy. This is the pathway which will lead to the eventual construction of Starships.
More about the successful tests and the ESA endorsement of this success story can be found on the Reaction Engines web site.