Reaction Engines is looking for an engine partner now. They have some good contacts with Safran through Airbus Safran Launchers. A large amount of money is being made available by the US DoD for testing the precooler in a hypersonic wind tunnel.
US Air Force research lab investigations examined the thermodynamic cycle of the SABRE concept and found no significant barrier to its theoretical viability provided the engine component and integration challenges are met.
In late 2015 / early 2016, BAE Systems invested £20.6 million in Reaction Engines to acquire 20 per cent of its share capital and also enter into a working partner relationship.
BAE Systems will collaborate to accelerate Reaction Engines’ development of SABRE – a new aerospace engine class that combines both jet and rocket technologies with the potential to revolutionize hypersonic flight and the economics of space access.
SABRE is an advanced combined cycle air-breathing rocket engine. This new class of aerospace engine is designed to enable aircraft to operate from standstill on the runway to speeds of over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere. SABRE can then transition to a rocket mode of operation, allowing spaceflight at speeds up to orbital velocity, equivalent to twenty five times the speed of sound.
The USA AFRL is bullish on the technology. The lab will reveal two-stage-to-orbit SABRE-based concepts either this September, at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' (AIAA) SPACE 2016 conference in Long Beach, California, or in March 2017, at the 21st AIAA International Space Planes and Hypersonic Systems and Technologies Conference in China, said AFRL Aerospace Systems Directorate Aerospace Engineer Barry Hellman.
The key SABRE technologies that AFRL, based in Ohio, will start work on later this year, and possibly fly in the future, are related to the engine's precooler. This device precools the air entering the engine at speeds greater than four times the speed of sound (Mach 4). SABRE's precooler will cool such air from more than 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius) down to minus 238 F (minus 150 C) in one one-hundredth of a second. The oxygen in the chilled air will become liquid in the process.
Updates from Presentation
Reaction Engines is looking for an engine partner now - they needed BAE at the time and now they are at the point where they need Rolls or someone else. They have some good contacts with Safran through Airbus Safran Launchers. A large amount of money is being made available by the US DoD for testing the precooler in a hypersonic wind tunnel.
Apparently sealing the helium loop is hard. They don't know whether to work with an industrial partner to make their seals lighter or an aerospace partner to make their seals better.
They have new management with people from Safran Leonardo Helicopters. New management is much more focused on stepping stones rather than hoping to somehow get 10 billion dollars to do single stage to orbit.
The heat in the helium loop can be used to generate a lot of electrical power potentially. Military people like this a lot - why? Maybe lasers?
Skylon spaceplane is definitely on the back-burner until the 2030s.
Hypersonic military hardware and perhaps hypersonic business jets are of interest. There was mention of two stage to orbit designs and pictures of Orbital Access' designs.
Main work is on engine ground test. There were many engine-specific questions from about 500 knowledgeable people in a technical audience.