Reaction Engines: “Majority” of Experts at Review Found Skylon to be “Viable Concept”

REACTION ENGINES NEWS UPDATE

On 20th and 21st September, the UK Space Agency held a System Requirements Review on the commercial and technical capabilities of SKYLON at the International Space Innovation Centre at Harwell, England. Approximately ninety invited experts attended the event venturing from various European and global nations including the USA, Russia, India, Japan and South Korea. In the months leading up to the Review, three engineers from the European Space Agency (ESA) were seconded to REL in order to investigate our technology, methods and analysis. ESA will provide the UK Space Agency with an official report on the Workshop within in the next month.

The preliminary results of the event are indicative that the majority of the attendees consider SKYLON to be a viable concept. Responses to questions on the project provided a clear and honest overview of the programme. Dr Constantinos Stavrinidis, Head of Mechanical Engineering at ESA, gave the closing address and commended the competence of REL and its SKYLON concept.

REL hopes that the feasibility of the SKYLON programme is no longer in doubt and that the commercial and technical aspects of the project are well understood and recognised. Over the coming months, discussions with government, industry and private investment are due to take place and REL looks forward to further progressing SKYLON.

The UK Space Agency’s press release for the event is available at http://www.ukspaceagency.bis.gov.uk/19661.aspx?pf=1

Recently, one of the recurring questions has been the degree of government involvement in the SKYLON development. To date, the public contribution stands at 15% with the remaining 85% provided by private investment. REL intends SKYLON to remain as commercial a programme as possible.

Editor’s Note: It’s interesting that ESA lent Reaction Engines three engineers leading up the the preview. It certainly shows that the space agency is taking the project seriously.

It’s also interesting the way in which this news update is couched. I’m not sure if Reaction Engines is taking a cautious, anti-Branson approach to promoting its technology, or the results of the review were less than they had hoped.

The preliminary results of the event are indicative that the majority of the attendees consider SKYLON to be a viable concept.

That’s a very legalistic sentence. “Preliminary results” being “indicative” of a “majority” who think the “concept” is “viable.” A bit on the vague side.

There are no shortages of viable concepts out there. The questions are usually about how much money and time you need to make them a reality,  how many technological breakthroughs are required, and whether you can afford to operate them after they are built. (Hello? Concorde? Space shuttle? Ares? Hermes?)  There are plenty of other viable concepts that are equally worthy of limited research funding.

REL hopes that the feasibility of the SKYLON programme is no longer in doubt and that the commercial and technical aspects of the project are well understood and recognised.

Well, one would hope so. Except for, perhaps, the minority that was not convinced of the concept’s viability. Not a very strong statement.

Dr Constantinos Stavrinidis, Head of Mechanical Engineering at ESA, gave the closing address and commended the competence of REL and its SKYLON concept.

Competence is good. However, with something like Skylon, you’re going to need brilliance. Ask anyone working on SpaceShipTwo. The people building it, by every account I’ve heard, quite brilliant. Yet, the project is taking much longer — and costing much more — than anyone anticipated.