A British firm seeking to build a radical spaceplane – the Skylon – able to fly to orbit from a runway takeoff without any jettisoning of fuel tanks or boosters says that it will test its main technical special sauce this year.
The announcement was made at a spaceplanes conference in California last week. Roger Longstaff, engineer at Reaction Engines Ltd, said that the company intends to test its amazing “pre-cooler” technology in June.
The pre-cooler is the key to REL’s amazing SABRE engines, which are themselves perhaps the primary factor permitting a single-stage-to-orbit space plane.
The company describes the SABRE engine as being a rocket furnished with and additional pre-cooled turbocompressor. Air is taken in at the front of the SABRE and almost instantly cooled down to the point at which it is almost liquid, using terrifically powerful freezer kit employing a liquid-helium loop. The supercold air takes the place of liquid oxygen in the combustion chamber, reacting with liquid-hydrogen fuel to produce thrust in much the same way as the space shuttle main engines. Heat sucked from the intake air is dumped into the fuel.
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