Reaction Engines Receives DARPA Contract for Precooler Tests

CASTLE ROCK, Colo., September 25, 2017 (Reaction Engines PR) — Reaction Engines Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Reaction Engines, today announced that it has received a contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to conduct high-temperature airflow testing in the United States of a Reaction Engines precooler test article called HTX.

The precooler heat exchanger is a key component of the company’s revolutionary SABRE air-breathing rocket engine and has the potential to enable other precooled propulsion systems. The primary HTX test objective is to validate precooler performance under the high-temperature airflow conditions expected during high-speed flights up to Mach 5.

“We have been greatly encouraged by the increasing interest in our technology’s potential and are thrilled to embark on our first U.S. government contract with DARPA for HTX,” said Dr. Adam Dissel, President of Reaction Engines Inc. “Full-temperature testing of the precooler will provide the most compelling near-term proof of the technology’s potential to accelerate the future for high-speed air-breathing systems.”

The HTX precooler test builds upon previous successful ground tests of the precooler technology conducted at ambient environmental conditions in the United Kingdom. These previous tests validated precooler design methodology, manufacturing techniques, and test operations plans.

To support HTX testing, Reaction Engines is constructing a new high-temperature airflow test facility, located in Colorado. Under the DARPA program, the company aims to establish the facility’s capability to provide airflows in excess of 1800°F (1000°C), analogous to air-breathing flight above Mach 5, and then conduct the testing of a Reaction Engines-supplied precooler starting in the spring of 2018.

Mark Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of Reaction Engines, commented, “The announcement of DARPA’s contract is fantastic news and provides us with the opportunity to demonstrate our innovative heat exchanger capability in the world’s largest aerospace market. This will accelerate our development efforts and strengthen key relationships.”

Reaction Engines has world-leading expertise in the design and manufacture of compact, lightweight heat exchangers capable of cooling airstreams from over 1800°F to -240°F (1,000°C to -150°C) in less than 1/20th of a second. Developed for the high-speed SABRE engines, the precooler heat exchangers prevent engine components from overheating at high flight speeds and thereby could enable new classes of vehicles and operational possibilities.

  • Luis

    Could it be consivable that a US-European companies joint venture could build the definitive Skylon, for now DARPA´s involvement in the SABRE precooler is interesting. I guess the market forces will ultmately define if a US-European Skylon makes sence.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Curious. I always knew that if nothing else came of SABRE, somebody would snatch up that precooler tech. I wonder what the ITAR arrangement for this is like. Building a new test facility is a serious investment, so DARPA must see several years worth of research coming out of this.

  • Jeff2Space

    SABRE makes a hell of a lot more sense on a military vehicle or hypersonic cruise missile than it does on a launch vehicle.

  • Jeff2Space

    To me, Skylon makes little sense as a launch vehicle. Even assuming it’s possible to build and fly with an actual payload to LEO, for the level of investment required to develop and build them, you’d have to be flying the vehicles at an insane flight rate to make your investment back. Who’s going to buy potentially dozens of launches per day?

  • patb2009

    Why not build the test facility at NASA Ames or Langley. A Mach 5 heating tunnel would be useful on other projects. If it were even built at Arnold or AFRL Dayton then other programs could use this