The development programme of the world’s first air-breathing rocket engine has taken a significant step forward, which will result in major testing milestones being reached in the next 18 months.
Reaction Engines has received further endorsement of its revolutionary Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) design via its collaboration with ESA (www.esa.int
) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA).
These two agencies recently reviewed the preliminary design of the demonstrator engine core of the SABRE, which Reaction Engines will use to undertake ground-based testing at its under-construction test facility at Westcott in Buckinghamshire.
Mark Ford, ESA’s Propulsion Engineering section head, said: “The positive conclusion of our Preliminary Design Review marks a major milestone in SABRE development. It confirms that the test version of this revolutionary new class of engine is ready for implementation.”
Chris Castelli, UK Space Agency director of programmes (www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-space-agency
), said: “As the home of the jet engine, the UK has a rich aerospace heritage and world-renowned skills and expertise.
"This is an exciting landmark for Reaction Engines in the development of its SABRE engine, which could revolutionise both access to space and international travel by powering aircraft to five-times the speed of sound.”
Reaction Engines launched a significant new element of its development programme in October 2016 — to design, build and demonstrate a SABRE engine core.
The test item consists of an engine core, which is a major module of the complete SABRE engine, but without the pre-cooler and rocket nozzle in place.
This core design and development activity is a major undertaking; upon completion of the tests, major elements of the world’s first air-breathing engine capable of accelerating from zero to Mach 5 will have been demonstrated.
The tests are part of a range of development activities currently under way at Reaction Engines. The company will shortly begin its HTX ‘hot’ heat exchanger testing in a test facility it has constructed in Colorado.
The HTX programme is a manufacturing and performance ground-level demonstration of the SABRE engine ‘Pre-Cooler’ heat exchanger in a high-temperature environment, similar to that expected to be seen by the SABRE engine during its air-breathing flight regime — up to 1,000°C air inlet temperature.
Richard Varvill, Reaction Engines CTO (www.reactionengines.co.uk
), said: “One of the great advantages of the SABRE propulsion concept is that it is totally modular from both design and operational perspectives.
"Therefore it is possible to subject each of the key components of the engine to rigorous ground testing, which fully mimic the operational conditions the engine will face up to Mach 5 flight at 25km altitude.”