UK Government Awards Launch Feasibility Studies

UK_flagSpace News reports the British government has awarded contracts totaling approximately $2 million to five groups for feasibility studies on launching out of the United Kingdom.

Airbus Safran Launchers, the prime contractor for Europe’s Ariane 5 and future Ariane 6 rockets, which has said was interested in a small-satellite launcher in addition to commercializing its work on a suborbital space-tourism vehicle.

Deimos Space UK associated with Firefly Space Systems of the United States, developing a vertical-launch rocket.

Lockheed Martin of the United States, proposing a version of its Athena small-satellite vertical-launch vehicle.

Britain’s Orbital Access associated with BAE Systems and Reaction Engines Ltd., proposing to use a modified version of Reaction Engines’ single-stage-to-orbit technology, whose development is being partially funded by the British government.

Virgin Galactic, which is proposing its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle, designed in the United States.

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Reaction Engines Adds to Management Team, Established U.S. Subsidiary

Mark Wood
Mark Wood

ABINGTON, UK (Reaction Engines PR) — Reaction Engines Ltd., a UK based company developing a new class of aerospace engine, today announces the strengthening of its leadership team with two senior management appointments and the establishment of a US-based subsidiary to lead its engagement with potential US government and industry partners.

The company has appointed Mark Wood to the newly created role of Chief Operating Officer & Engineering Director, with responsibility for operational leadership, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the business through integration, collaboration and operational best practices.

Mark Wood joins Reaction Engines from Safran Power UK, where he most recently held the position of Engineering Director, with responsibility for Safran Power Engineering in the UK and for engineering services across the whole Power division. He will report to Mark Thomas, Reaction Engines’ Chief Executive Officer.

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UK Space Agency Invests in National Propulsion Test Facility

UK_space_agencyFARNSBOROUGH, UK (UKSA PR) — The UK Space Agency is investing £4.12m in a National Propulsion Test Facility, giving the UK a new facility for space technology testing. The facility will allow UK companies and academia to test and develop space propulsion engines. The planned facility will be based at Westcott in Buckinghamshire, with its strong history of rocketry research for defence and space development, building on existing facilities.

The UK Space Agency investment will add new capabilities for the UK space sector. Government funding will:

  • Create a new vacuum facility at the Westcott propulsion test site. When used together with the existing industry owned rocket firing test cells, this will allow the simulation of high altitude testing of thrusters up to 2kN.
  • Upgrade an existing industry owned test chamber to improve capabilities in the 25N thrust range.
  • Open the facilities, alongside a smaller 1N thruster test chamber at the site, for the community to use. The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), through its RAL Space facility will act as an independent broker for facility access. The European Space Agency (ESA) will be advising and overseeing the initial detailed design phase before a review in the autumn to move to full implementation.

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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.

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Reaction Engines Appoints BAE’s Chris Allam to Board of Directors

reaction_engines_logoABINGTON, England (Reaction Engines PR) — The Board of Reaction Engines Ltd is pleased to announce the appointment of Chris Allam, Engineering Director at BAE Systems, as a Director of the Company. His appointment is part of the strategic investment and working partner relationship BAE Systems has entered into with Reaction Engines and he will co-ordinate BAE Systems’ collaboration on Reaction Engines’ development of its SABRE™ engine.

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BAE Makes $31.8 Million Strategic Investment in Reaction Engines

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

LONDON (BAE Systems PR) — BAE Systems plc and Reaction Engines Limited (‘Reaction Engines’) today announced a strategic investment by BAE Systems and a working collaboration to accelerate Reaction Engines’ development of SABRE™ – a new aerospace engine class that combines both jet and rocket technologies with the potential to revolutionise hypersonic flight and the economics of space access.

The transaction is subject to the approval of Reaction Engines’ shareholders.

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EU Provides $77 Million for SABRE Engine R&D

Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)
Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

BRUSSELS, Belgium (EC PR) — The European Commission has found that a £50 million (around €71 million) grant that the UK authorities intend to provide for designing a SABRE space launcher engine is in line with EU state aid rules.

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Reaction Engines Marks Installation of New Vacuum Furnace

Representatives from the UK Space Agency, Department of BIS and European Space Agency recently visited REL's pre-cooler manufacturing centre in Culham, UK. (Credit: Reaction Engines)
Representatives from the UK Space Agency, Department of BIS and European Space Agency recently visited REL’s pre-cooler manufacturing centre in Culham, UK. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

CULHAM, England (Reaction Engines PR) — The Reaction Engines team are celebrating the installation and current commissioning of a new state-of-the-art high vacuum furnace at Culham Science Centre, Oxfordshire.

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Reaction Engines Begins New Round of Rocket Testss

WESTCOTT, England (Reaction Engines PR) — Reaction Engines Ltd. have begun their latest round of rocket engine testing in Westcott, UK.

The SABRE engine requires a novel design of the rocket engine’s thrust chamber and nozzle to allow operation in both air-breathing and rocket modes, as well as a smooth transition between the two. The Advanced Nozzle project is demonstrating the feasibility of this concept and represents a significant technology development effort towards the SABRE demonstrator engine.

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Reaction Engines Reaches SABRE Engine Milestone

Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)
Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

ABINGTON, England (Reaction Engines PR) — This year, the Reaction Engines team are expanding in staff and activities to complete the SABRE demonstrator programme, with delivery on track for 2019. The company has relocated to larger premises on Culham Science Centre; consolidated its two manufacturing subsidiaries to a single new location in Didcot; and is recruiting across the company, ready for the design, manufacture and testing of the full SABRE engine cycle. This growth phase has also included the purchase of new, bespoke equipment which will enable Reaction Engines to manufacture its proprietary SABRE pre-coolers in-house, at full scale.

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USAF Research Laboratory Investigates Potential of SABRE Engine

Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)
Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

Space.com reports that Reaction Engine’s SABRE propulsion system is attracting some interest in the United States:

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is studying hypersonic vehicles that would use the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE), which the English company Reaction Engines Ltd. is working on to power the Skylon space plane, AFRL officials said.

“AFRL is formulating plans to look at advanced vehicle concepts based on Reaction Engine’s heat-exchanger technology and SABRE engine concept,” officials with AFRL, which is based in Ohio, told Space.com via email last month….

The AFRL work is being carried out under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Reaction Engines that was announced in January. AFRL officials told Space.com that they are using computers to model SABRE.

“The Air Force research laboratories in the States have carried out some modeling to verify that the SABRE does actually work, that it is a real engine, and so I am hoping they are going to confirm that very soon,” [Reaction Engines Managing Director Alan] Bond said.

“This is obviously opening doors in the United States, and again, I can’t say a great deal about that, but we have very good dialogue going across the Atlantic,” he added. “In the next couple of years, it’s going to be quite exciting.”

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A Closer Look at the UK’s Commercial Space Review

Earth_from_space_graphic
Following the release of the document, “UK Government Review of Commercial Spaceplane Certification and Operations: Summary and Conclusions,” almost all media attention focused on one element of the report: the 8 candidate sites for the nation’s first spaceport.

This laser focus is easy to understand. The fierce, tooth-and-nail competition to land some big government project will be fun to watch. And spaceports are super cool. Well, they are when space planes are actually flying to space. When like a decade goes by with people promising imminent spaceflights without a single one taking place, spaceports become a lot less cool.  (I’m looking at you…everybody in Mojave!)

But, I digress. I went through the 80-page document and the 321-page technical report its based on so you don’t have to. Why would I do this? Because you guys are the best! You’re very welcome.

Key excerpts follow with commentary as appropriate. Read away!

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Air Force Research Lab to Evaluate Reaction Engines’ SABRE Engine

Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)
Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

LONDON (Reaction Engines PR) — Reaction Engines Ltd is pleased to announce that it has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (‘CRADA’) with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Aerospace Systems Directorate (AFRL/RQ).

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