Space planes are something of the future that are hoped to become a piece of everyday equipment in coming years for not only faster commercial travel, but also for space launches. One possible candidate is the Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE), which could revolutionize travel with the use of different features that typical engines just don’t have.
The SABRE engine has recently obtained a €10m European Space Agency (ESA) contract that is hoped will enable the first ground-based demonstration of one of these new monster engines. This funding combines with several other attempts to fund the engine in the past, bringing the total funding up to €60m from the UK government.
“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.”
The SABRE engine has a lot of benefits over modern jet engines and rockets, mostly due to the fact that it doesn’t need to carry any on-board oxygen and can harvest its own oxygen from the atmosphere around it. This ability means it can carry less fuel, which reduces weight and makes it more efficient in not only cost, but in performance.
A space plane equipped with such an engine could be a multi-purpose transportation vehicle. Not only could it get above Earth’s atmosphere and put things into orbit, but it could also be used as a commercial transportation vehicle with its wicked-fast speeds up to five times faster than the speed of sound. At this speed, one could get anywhere in the world in under 4.6 hours.
Just like any other airplane today, a space plane powered by a SABRE engine or two would launch from a landing strip, such as that at a modern airport. It could carry up to 300 passengers, or it could carry space equipment and take it into the Earth’s orbit. This multi-purpose engine provides a lot of possible alternatives to expensive rocket burns and limited jet engines.
The SABRETM team hopes to have some of the first ground-based demonstrators of the SABRE engine by the end of the decade. Some years after, development on a nifty new space plane concept, known as Skylon, may one day become a reality and utilize the new SABRE engines.
Source: Reaction Engines, Parabolic Arc