Culham Science Centre’s Reaction Engines Ltd has carried out successful tests on a revolutionary rocket engine for its Skylon vehicle. The space plane will be able to reach speeds of more than 19,000 miles an hour – which would cut the journey time from London to Australia to just four hours.
Reaction Engines hopes to run cargo flights to space stations by 2022 and says the craft – which will take off and land from conventional runways – could later be adapted to take tourists towards the stars.
SKYLON will provide aircraft-like access to space to enable:
* Operation from runway to orbit and back
* Order of magnitude reduction in cost vs. existing technology
* 400 x improved reliability
* Responsive access to space
Engine tests will continue for three years, with the first test flights scheduled for 2019.
He said: “Initially Skylon will be a cargo vehicle, but within a few years it could be carrying people.”
About £10m has been spent designing the craft and £100m more will be spent in the next five years. Each of the 270ft Skylons would cost £700m.