Economy

Ultrafast, air-breathing rocket engine moves a step closer

Ultrafast, air-breathing rocket engine moves a step closer”

The new technology, known as pre-cooler, allows the aircraft to travel at high speeds without the jet engine becoming too hot.

A British effort to build a revolutionary "spaceplane" that would fly at 25 times the speed of sound has passed a critical testing milestone.

British engineers have made a breakthrough in their effort to develop a "spaceplane" that could travel between NY and London in less than an hour. The testing was created to directly replicate supersonic flight conditions.

The company also wants to take people and payloads into space and return to Earth.

The heat exchanger technology has a wide range of potential commercial applications and the ability to revolutionise the approach to thermal management across a range of industries; from aerospace to motorsport, industrial processes, and the oil and gas industry.

Reaction Engines' milestone is the result of about 30 years of work by the company's founders, Alan Bond, Richard Varvill, and John Scott-Scott, the Financial Times reported.

The European Space Agency, the UK Space Agency and BAE Systems are working with Reaction Engines on the creation of the super plane.

The company says its engine can cool air from 420 degrees Celsius to room temperature in less than a second.

"This provides an important validation of our heat exchanger and thermal management technology portfolio which has application across emerging areas such as very high-speed flight, hybrid electric aviation and integrated vehicle thermal management". The machine weighs 1,250kg - and has already been successfully tested using a Viper jet engine in 2012, cooling the Viper's exhaust to cryogenic temperatures.

It would carry significantly less fuel oxidant than a conventional rocket, making it much lighter.

Once the jet has reached the atmosphere, it would draw in cold air which is then fed into a rocket-propulsion system where it is ignited with liquid hydrogen.

Commenting, Mark Thomas, Chief Executive, Reaction Engines, said: "This is a hugely significant milestone which has seen Reaction Engines' proprietary precooler technology achieve unparalleled heat transfer performance".

Sabre is meant to be much lighter than a conventional rocket engine because it would carry less fuel-oxidant.

"The ground-based tests saw Reaction Engines' unique precooler successfully quench the 420°C (~788°F) intake airflow in less than 1/20th of a second".

At low altitude and low speeds, it would behave like a jet, burning its fuel in a stream of air scooped from the atmosphere.



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