The Oxfordshire-based firm has been developing a turbine that combines both jet and rocket technologies to achieve rates five times the speed of sound, to fly anywhere in the world in just four hours.
Rather than aiming for a demonstrator that can achieve more than 150,000 lb thrust, the firm will instead now target an engine size capable of roughly 44,000 lb thrust, according to Aviation Week Network.
Reaction Engines has gotten funding from the UK and EU government and has partnered with BAE systems. In 2015 BAE agreed to buy a 20% stake for 20.3 million pounds as part of an agreement to help develop Reaction's Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) hypersonic engine designed to propel the Skylon orbiter. The shift is likely due to the increased interest from the United States' Air Force Research Laboratory.
Reaction Engines has gotten about $10 million to continue work on the SABRE engine from the ESA. $80 million was pledged by the British government for the engine.
The US Air Force could provided billions if Reaction Engines becomes the favored approach to achieve hypersonic fighter and spy planes.
A smaller engine could be used in multistage vehicles or hypersonic craft the size of an X-plane.
‘It is now more affordable, more rapid to execute and will potentially find its first application quicker,’ Reaction CEO Mark Thomas told Aviation Week Network.
‘It’s a quarter of Sabre, effectively. In an application for something like Skylon, the engine would have four combustion chambers connecting to the single nozzle, a bypass system and the same turbomachinery, intake and heat exchanger.
Currently rockets have to carry liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to power them and the cost of carrying this heavy fuel is expensive.
The new engine creates its own liquid oxygen by cooling air entering the engine from 1,000°C to minus 150°C in a hundredth of a second – six times faster than the blink of an eye – without creating ice blockages.
Along with a JSF-sized engine for the ground demonstrator, the firm plans to solve the power gap between air-breathing and rocket engines.
While the engine is still in the design phase, the firm plans to see three main test phases stretching into the 2020s.
It’s hoped that the first test will take place within the next 12-15 months, the CEO tells AWN, with a focus on the heat exchanger and the core.
The team will move on to the integrated engine tests in 2020-2021.
Russia plans to have mach 5 hypersonic missiles by the early 2020s
Russia’s Tactical Missiles Corporation hopes to create a weapon that would be able to hit targets at hypersonic speeds by the early 2020s, according to a statement by the corporation’s general director Boris Obnosov.
The corporation is now working on this project together with scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Advanced Research Foundation under the Military-Industrial Commission in a bid to produce a missile capable of reaching Mach 5, or around 3,800 miles per hour – five times the speed of sound.
SOURCES - RBTH, Daily Mail UK, wikipedia