Reaction Engines Signs ESA Contract

Skylon concept (Credit: Reaction Engines)
Skylon concept (Credit: Reaction Engines)

FARNBOROUGH, UK (Reaction Engines PR) — Reaction Engines Ltd., today announces the signing of a €10m European Space Agency (ESA) contract which will enable the development of a ground based demonstrator of SABRE™, a new class of aerospace engine which is highly scalable with multiple potential applications in hypersonic travel and space access.

Today’s signing represents the final piece of the British Government’s £60 million commitment of grant funding towards the SABRE programme. Within this commitment, €10m is being administered by ESA’s Technology Centre (ESTEC), alongside £50 million directly through the UK Space Agency. The terms of the UK Space Agency grant funding were agreed in late December 2015. In November 2015, BAE Systems invested £20.6 million in Reaction Engines to acquire 20 per cent of its share capital and agreed to provide industrial, technology development and project management expertise to support Reaction Engines during its development phase.

The agreements now in place between Reaction Engines, ESA and the UK Space Agency, together with the working partnership with BAE Systems, set the framework for Reaction Engines to deliver the world’s first SABRE ground demonstrator engine by the end of the decade.

Mark Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of Reaction Engines Ltd., commented:

“We’ve had valuable support from ESA and UKSA to date, and today’s agreement is a further vote of confidence not only in the revolutionary potential of this technology, but our ability to deliver on it. We are now entering an exciting phase where we can accelerate the pace of development to get SABRE up and running.”

Franco Ongaro, Director of Technical and Quality Management, ESA said:

“Reaction Engines and ESA have been working together since 2008 to make the SABRE concept a reality. This new contract marks an important milestone in our continued collaboration to mature the SABRE engine design. It should take us to a point where we can expect to be testing a demonstrator engine in 2020.”

Katherine Courtney, acting Chief Executive Officer, UK Space Agency, commented:

“We want the UK to be the best place in Europe to innovate and the SABRE engine programme has the potential to change air and space travel forever. When the UK Space Agency made its £60m commitment in 2013, we demonstrated our courage and belief in the development of this ground-breaking technology. Drawing on the expertise of the European Space Agency, our funding will help ensure that Reaction Engines and industry can collaborate to make this revolutionary engine a reality.”

About Reaction Engines

Reaction Engines Limited is a privately owned Company located in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1989 to develop the technologies needed for an advanced combined cycle air-breathing rocket engine class called SABRE™ (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) which is a leading contender for the next generation of hypersonic flight and space access vehicles

  • P.K. Sink

    “The agreements now in place between Reaction Engines, ESA and the UK Space Agency, together with the working partnership with BAE Systems, set the framework for Reaction Engines to deliver the world’s first SABRE ground demonstrator engine by the end of the decade.”

    That is encouraging, but it sure has been slow slogging. And poor Alan Bond doesn’t even get a mention on the company’s list of managers, directors and big kahunas. Ouch!

  • Aerospike

    I find it disgusting how a) (I believe) our modern economy, driven entirely by short time profits, and b) our (related) risk averse approach to everything – that encourages tons of paperwork and tries to minimize experiments as much as possible – stymies technological developments like SABRE.

    Imagine similar R&D projects during war time would have taken just as long. World War II would have been over before something like the FW-190 or the P-51D had ever flown and jet engines would still have been only on the drawing board.

    I really do not want to live in times of war, but I’m endlessly annoyed how little our modern society values technological advancements (unless it is the latest iteration of a fracking smartphone… ) 🙁

  • Bill Douglass

    Like the concept but seems to me it suffers the same problem as the Shuttle – throws a lot of weight into orbit that is not payload.

  • Hug Doug

    No other way to do SSTO.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    This is the problem with SSTO (see Hug Doug) and Skylon, but not necessarily with SABRE. In order to enable SSTO, REL have invented SABRE, which is truly ground breaking. As far as I can see, there’s no reason that SABRE could not be used on a VTVL first stage. The saving in launch LOX could well be revolutionary.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    I’m sure he’s the kind of person to whom plaudits and riches are not the motivation. That said, it’s nice to see someone else notice his lack of mention in this round of news.

  • P.K. Sink

    And thank you for noticing that I noticed ;-)…I sure hope that he’s happy and busy, doing what he does best. And I hope that he’ll be around to see his baby soar to space.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Earth is not a SSTO planet when it comes to chemical power. Drop tanks or a real honest to goodness 2nd, and better yet 3rd stage are the best ways to go. With the new forms of carbon coming up the R&D pipeline, that may change, but for now …

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    I think there’s little doubt that by collecting 150-200 tonnes of LOX from the atmosphere SABRE would allow Skylon to work as an SSTO. That said, I agree that a fully reusable staged launcher is a better approach. One thing that Skylon, and all SSTO and spaceplanes generally, are not, is cost efficient. Nor are they big payload haulers.

  • Hug Doug

    I know that, but I’m not sure Bill does.