Flight Global – Testing is under way to demonstrate the heat exchanger technology crucial to a hybrid air- and liquid oxygen-breathing rocket motor that Oxford-based Reaction Engines believes will enable single-stage-to-orbit flight.
The Sabre engine is intended to power a reusable, runway take-off and landing unpiloted spaceplane called Skylon, which promises to put payloads of up to 12t into orbit – and as much as 6 tons to a high geostationary orbit – for 10% of the cost of a traditional rocket launch.
Reaction insists the heat exchanger works, but trials set to run to year-end are needed to demonstrate to waiting investors that the technology is viable. Then, the company says, its investors are ready to release £200 million ($325 million) for a 2012-14 project phase to build an engine demonstrator. If successful, a further £7.5 billion ($10 billion) should be forthcoming to develop the airframe for service from 2020, says the company.