Armed forces of the future could be using rapid response aircraft equipped with engines capable of propelling those aircraft to hypersonic speeds – similar to the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) which is currently being developed by Reaction Engines Limited, a small British company in which BAE Systems has invested £20.6 million.
Under the terms of the agreement, BAE Systems will invest £20.6 million in Reaction Engines to acquire 20 per cent of its share capital and also enter into a working partner relationship. The working partnership will draw on BAE Systems’ extensive aerospace technology development and project management expertise and will provide Reaction Engines with access to critical industrial, technical and capital resources to progress towards the demonstration of a ground based engine – a key milestone in the development of the technology. Under the agreement BAE Systems will enter into a preferred supplier relationship with Reaction Engines in certain agreed areas and will have representation on the board of Reaction Engines.
Reaction Engines is a privately held company based in the United Kingdom developing the technologies needed for an advanced combined cycle air-breathing rocket engine called SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine). This new class of aerospace engine is designed to enable aircraft to operate from standstill on the runway to speeds of over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere. SABRE can then transition to a rocket mode of operation, allowing spaceflight at speeds up to orbital velocity, equivalent to twenty five times the speed of sound. Reaction Engines’ technology has undergone extensive independent technical assessments which have confirmed its viability and potential vehicle applications.
The UK Government is expected to confirm grant funding of £60 million for Reaction Engines to further SABRE’s development towards a ground based test engine and to investigate its applications for space access vehicles. Together with BAE Systems’ investment, this significant injection of capital will support Reaction Engines’ transition from a successful research phase into development and testing of the engine, including plans to expand its workforce of skilled engineers.
Reaction Engines is a privately held company located in the United Kingdom and formed in 1989, employing a staff of highly skilled engineers to develop the technologies needed for an advanced combined cycle air-breathing rocket engine class called SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine).
SABRE is an innovative, new class of aerospace propulsion that has the potential to provide efficient air-breathing thrust from standstill on the runway to speeds above five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere. The SABRE engine can then transition to a rocket mode of operation allowing spaceflight at up to orbital velocity, equivalent to twenty five times the speed of sound. Through its ability to ‘breathe’ air from the atmosphere, SABRE offers a significant reduction in propellant consumption and weight compared to conventional rocket engines which have to carry their own oxygen.
A key element of the SABRE engine is a breakthrough in aerospace engine technology Reaction Engines has achieved by developing ultra-lightweight heat exchangers that allow the cooling of very hot airstreams from over 1,000 °C to minus 150 °C in less than 1/100th of a second whilst preventing the formation of ice at sub-zero temperatures.
Reaction Engines Ltd has an ongoing SABRE engine technology development programme and in 2013 the UK Government announced a £60m commitment to aid preparations for the design, manufacture and testing of SABRE demonstrator engines.
The viability of the SABRE engine has been independently validated by the European Space Agency during a review undertaken at the request of the UK government.