A small UK company, Reaction Engines Ltd., is developing a new air-breathing jet engine, called Sabre, suitable for the in-atmosphere propulsion of satellite launch vehicles and for hypersonic aircraft. Beyond the atmosphere, a satellite launch vehicle will use stored liquid oxygen.
Alan Bond, leading the development, intends that this engine will be used to power the imaginative Skylon space plane, a re-useable single stage to orbit satellite launch vehicle.
Members of the British Interplanetary Society have been following the work closely and keeping our fingers crossed. Some will say this is a typical British, low budget, science fiction venture, but I live in hope that it really will be a great success.
Watch the video/audio above, from Reaction Engines Ltd.
The key problem with air breathing hypersonic engines is cooling the incoming air, as the air otherwise gets extremely hot as it slows down at the engine intake. Pre-cooling the vast quantities of air rapidly has been the main objective and the problem to solve.
The proposed Skylon launch vehicle will also have liquid oxygen tanks to enable
normal rocket mode when above the atmosphere.
For more details of the Sabre engine developments go to https://www.reactionengines.co.uk/
The Sabre engine heat exchanger cleverly cools the air by passing it past very small cooling pipes, while avoiding the whole thing getting iced up due to water vapour in the air.
Recent tests of a prototype heat exchanger have been successful. Well done Alan!
In a conventional rocket, a large amount of energy is used to compress and cool the oxygen and hydrogen to turn them both into liquids for filling the oxidiser and fuel tanks. In the Sabre engine, some of this stored energy is not wasted but is used to cool the incoming 1000 deg C air.
Best regards, Eric.
Read more about Skylon at the British Interplanetary Society.
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New page 28 Nov 2012, amended 6 Feb 2017, 30 Mar 2019