SKYLON Studied as the Next European Launch System Under €1 Million ESA Contract

Abingdon, England (Reaction Engines PR) — Reaction Engines Ltd have signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for a €1 million ($1.33 million) study into the next European Launch System.

The “Skylon-based European Launch Service Operator” contract has been finalised by the Launcher Directorate of the European Space Agency in Paris, France and work has started to study how the SKYLON spaceplane can meet Europe’s Space access demands in terms of cost, flexibility and responsiveness, from the early 2020’s.


UK Science Minister Promises New Era for British Space

UK_space_agencyDuring the UK Space Conference in Glasgow last week, Science Minister David Willetts outlined the government’s ongoing efforts to expand the nation’s space program.

Actions include a $91 million (£60 million) investment in Reaction Engines’ SABRE propulsion system for the Skylon space plane, increased activities in a variety of commercial and scientific areas, and a long-term plan to capture 10 percent of the global space market by 2030.

Excerpts from his prepared remarks follow that focus on the overall health of the industry, future goals, and the UK’s investment in SABRE and other propulsion technologies. To see what else he discussed, click over to his prepared remarks.


UKSA to Invest £60 million in SABRE Engine for Skylon Space Plane

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Skylon precooler test. (Credit: Reaction Engines)
Skylon precooler test. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

LONDON (UKSA) — Through the UK Space Agency, the Government is set to invest £60 million in the development of the SABRE – a British-designed rocket engine which could revolutionise the fields of propulsion and launcher technology, and significantly reduce the costs of accessing space.

SABRE has the potential to create 21,000 high value engineering and manufacturing jobs; maximise the UK’s access to a conservatively estimated £13.8 billion launcher market over the next thirty years; and provide economic benefits from spill-over technology markets.


Fine Tubes’ Decade of Collaboration with Reaction Engines Pays Off

Skylon precooler test. (Credit: Reaction Engines)
Skylon precooler test. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

Plymouth, England (Fine Tubes PR) — Fine Tubes a leading metal tubes manufacturer specialising in the aerospace, medical, chemical process, nuclear, power and oil and gas sectors has cause to celebrate as a 10 year project sees results.

After a decade of work with Reaction Engines – developers of Skylon, one of the world’s first reusable space planes – Fine Tubes can announce that testing of its contribution has been a success.


Move Over, Jet Engines! Here Comes SABRE!

The Biggest Breakthrough in Propulsion Since the Jet Engine
Reaction Engines Press Release
November 28, 2012

Reaction Engines Ltd. can announce today the biggest breakthrough in aerospace propulsion technology since the invention of the jet engine. Critical tests have been successfully completed on the key technology for SABRE, an engine which will enable aircraft to reach the opposite side of the world in under 4 hours, or to fly directly into orbit and return in a single stage, taking off and landing on a runway.


Reaction Engines Says Tech for Sabre Engine in Place

Reaction Engines announced today that tests have verified that the technology is in place to build its Sabre engine, which lies at the heart of its reusable, single-stage-to-orbit Skylon spacecraft.

The news brings the promise of not only routine, affordable access to space but also point-to-point travel at Mach 5 and major improvements in fuel efficiency for existing airliners. The announcement featured a major endorsement of the technology by ESA, has has worked with the British company to evaluate the results of the tests, Reuters reports.

“ESA are satisfied that the tests demonstrate the technology required for the Sabre engine development,” the agency’s head of propulsion engineering Mark Ford told a news conference.

“One of the major obstacles to a re-usable vehicle has been removed,” he said. “The gateway is now open to move beyond the jet age.”


Video: Is SpaceX’s New Engine and Spacecraft Designed for Mars?

In this interview with the Royal Aeronautical Society, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is asked about a rumored new project called the Raptor MCT (4:28):

MUSK: “Now and again, I just throw something out just for fun. I can confirm that the name of the engine is Raptor. I’d like to announce maybe some details about the engine next year. But, perhaps what’s even more interesting is the spaceship that that’s attached to it.”

Q: “Does the M in MCT stand for anything to do with Mars or Martian?

MUSK: (Laughs) “I have to leave a little. You show a little leg but not all of it.”

Editor’s Note: Musk said during a separate talk that Raptor is a methane engine.

A few other comments of note:


We hope to demonstration high altitude supersonic liftoff and return — have stage take off, go supersonic and land with propulsion at landing site

Grasshopper is a test bed for recovering Falcon 9 stages for reuse

It consists of a Falcon 9 first stage and a Merlin I-D engine


“That’s definitely not one of our main initiatives. And think there’s likely to be some changes in that program.”

Can’t comment on changes

SpaceX’s role is to supply a downsized version of the Falcon 9 rocket that would be air launched from the company’s carrier aircraft

Falcon Heavy

We hope to fly a demonstration flight by the end of 2013

Planetary Resources

“Our rockets are standing by.”

Believes there is potentially a market for mining asteroids as a refueling station. Not sure about the market for mining platinum and other resources.

Planetary Resources is the start up looking at mining asteroids founded by Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis


Doesn’t know project very well. His calculation show that single-stage-to-orbit does not make sense, but he could be wrong.

Skylon is the Reaction Engines’ SSTO

Human Mission to Mars

10 or 15 year time frame

Skylon Update: Big Bucks, Buck Rogers

During a plenary session at the International Astronautic Federation conference in Naples on Wednesday, Reaction Engines Founding Director Alan Bond said that the Skylon space plane could be commercially operational in 2022 after a development program that would cost about $14 billion. Flights of the reusable, single-stage-to-orbit vehicle would cost roughly $5 million each.

None of that is really news to anyone who has been following the program. However, what Bond said about the technical progress on the Skylon’s advanced propulsion system was intriguing, providing hope to supporters that the company might find the financial backing it needs to carry the program to completion.


The Space Show this Week…

This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston….

1. Monday, July 2, 2012, 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): MARK HEMPSELL of Reaction Engines returns for discussion and updates.

2. Tuesday, July 3, 2012, 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): ROBERT ZIMMERMAN returns for space news and events updates.

3. Friday, July 6, 2012, 9:30-11 AM PDT (11:30- 1 PM CDT, 12:30PM-2:00 PM EDT) : I will talk about my Florida trip, my tour of KSC and the ISU Space & Media panel.

4. Sunday, July 8, 2012, 12-1:30 PM (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT). We welcome back LES JOHNSON, NASA physicist and Deputy Manager for the Advanced Concepts Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center. He is also an author and we will be discussing his newest book, “Going Interstellar” which addresses new ways of doing interstellar propulsion.

Reaction Engines Begins Pre-cooler Testing for Skylon Space Plane

Skylon precooler test. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

REACTION ENGINES PR — The testing of the Pre-cooler, now fully integrated into the B9 test stand with the Viper jet engine, has finally begun this month after a number of delays shaking down the system. The initial tests have gone very well and represent a good start to the test campaign which will last several months.

The flow thorough the Pre-cooler has been found to be aerodynamically stable without any significant structural deflection or vibration.

The Space Review: Skylon, Shuttles and Area 51

In The Space Review this week….

Skylon: ready for takeoff?
The British Skylon RLV concept has received some recent attention after an ESA study found no showstoppers with its design. Jeff Foust explores the work on Skylon performed to date and identifies some challenges, both engineering and business, that it has yet to overcome.

The irreplaceable Space Shuttle
After next month’s launch of Atlantis, the Space Shuttle program will come to an end. Taylor Dinerman looks back on what the shuttle did and did not achieve.

Hubble in the crosshairs
Is Russian developing an airborne laser anti-satellite weapon? Dwayne Day examines the history of a curious Russian aircraft that may be fitted with a laser, and its implications for a potential ASAT arms race.

Roswell that ends well, part 2
Dwayne Day follows up on a critique of a new book about Area 51 with an analysis of the research that went into that book, and the flaws associated with it.

Report: No Significant Barriers to Skylon Space Plane

The UK Space Agency’s SKYLON technical assessment which was produced by the European Space Agency (ESA) has concluded that there are no significant barriers that would prevent successful continued development of the SKYLON Spaceplane.


Reaction Engines Preps For Key Skylon Tech Test

Blighty’s Skylon spaceplane faces key tech test in June: Helium pre-cooler vital for SABRE airbreather rocket
The Register

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.


Space Access ’11: Reaction Engines’ Skylon Space Plane

Roger Longstaff
Reaction Engines

Current Progress and Plans

  • C1 Design completed – engineering drawings and design for vehicle
  • Getting an assessment of C1 by ESA and UKSA
  • ESA embedded employees with them – got a report back from ESA 150 pages – very technical – overall conclusion that C1 design could be realized with current technology providing the engine development went ahead as planned
  • UKSA invited more than 100 technical experts from around the world – ESA, NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA – industrialists, academics and other experts
  • Received an assessment from NASA a few months ago – impressed with team and project — caveat: more performance margins needed on SABRE engine design to make project work — Skylon accepts that conclusion
  • No word from other space agencies yet
  • SABRE 3 Engine demonstration in June
  • SABRE — Synergistic Air-breathing Rocket Engine