First major test for world's first 'space plane' passed

The breakthrough paves the way for the potential of hypersonic travel. Credit Reaction Engines

The breakthrough paves the way for the potential of hypersonic travel. Credit Reaction Engines

Specialists at Reaction Engines say they have created a "pre-cooler", which worked at simulated speeds of Mach 3.3 - or 2,509 miles per hour to the laymen - meaning hypersonic travel could be on the horizon.

Reactor Engines, a British aerospace company, said it had successfully tested a rocket engine that could eventually allow for supersonic flight to space.

It boasts it will be able to make the trip from London to NY in just one hour.

The super plane is being designed with the desire for "the fuel efficiency of a jet engine with the power of a rocket", The Sun reports.

The company also wants to take people and payloads into space and return to Earth. The precooler is a key element of Reaction Engines' revolutionary SABRE engine and is a potential enabling technology for advanced propulsion systems and other commercial applications.

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.

It comes 30 years after Reaction Engines was formed in the United Kingdom around an engine cycle concept to enable access to space and hypersonic air-breathing flight from a standing start.

The pre-cooler is critical in the plane's development because it is required to stop the engine from melting by lowering the temperature of compressed air in the engine from more than 1,000°C to room temperature in one-twentieth of a second.

Israel Becomes The Fourth Nation To Land On The Moon
Last week, Beresheet successfully exited the earth's orbit and let the moon's gravitational force draw it into it's own orbit. Beresheet was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on February 21.

To do this, the team developed a heat-exchanger to manage very high temperature airflows.

SABRE would, so its inventors hope, enable single-stage-to-orbit rockets rather than using the old US Space Shuttle system of solid-fuel booster rockets strapped to a large, disposable liquefied oxygen/hydrogen tank.

Reaction said this morning that its precooler heat exchanger had "successfully achieved all test objectives in the first phase of high-temperature testing created to directly replicate supersonic flight conditions".

From take-off to Mach 5.5, the Sabre would draw oxygen from the atmosphere were it would be ignited in a rocket combustion chamber alongside stored liquid hydrogen.

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

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

It did this by successfully quenching a 420°C (788°F) stream of gases in less than 1/20th of a second.

Latest News