Reaction Engines’ SABRE air-breathing rocket engine passes crucial test

Daniel Fowler
April 12, 2019

The Synthetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) designed by Reaction is created to get an attached space vehicle up to Mach 5.4 before switching to liquid oxygen and accelerating to Mach 25 to send a spacecraft into orbit.

A "Spaceplane" that travels 25 times faster than the speed of sound has successfully passed a crucial testing milestone.

Reaction Engines has recently been testing a "pre-cooler" for the plane, which is technology that would allow it to travel faster than ever before.

Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine, or Sabre, is a new type of flexible engine for propelling both high speed aircraft and spacecraft. If so, it could cut flight time between London and NY to under an hour.

Most aircraft are limited to subsonic cruising speeds, but an experimental hypersonic engine from a UK-based firm is one step closer to reality today.

British engineers are one step closer to building a hypersonic "spaceplane" that could travel between London and NY in less than an hour.

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

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They hope to get their SABRE engine precooler to the point where it can handle air temperatures in excess of the 1,000 degrees Celsius (~1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) experienced at Mach 5.

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. This is one of the reasons why jets can not travel too fast, as they engine is vulnerable to melting.

The unique precooler has reportedly quenched a 420°C intake airflow successfully in less than 1/20 of a second.

Mark Thomas, the Reaction Engines chief executive, told The Times "If you can pull it off, it's a game changer".

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

"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".

At high speeds and at high altitude, it would transition to full rocket mode, combining the fuel with the oxygen carried inside.

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