Reaction Engines' air-breathing SABRE rocket engine ready to enter test phase

Reaction Engines' air-breathing SABRE rocket engine ready to enter test phase

Reaction Engine’s SABRE rocket engine will undergo major testing milestones within the next 18 months.

Reaction Engines' air-breathing SABRE rocket engine ready to enter test phase

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA) recently reviewed the preliminary design of the demonstrator engine core of the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE). Reaction Engines will soon undertake ground-based testing at its under-construction test facility at Westcott, Buckinghamshire.

“The positive conclusion of our Preliminary Design Review marks a major milestone in SABRE development,” said Mark Ford, heading ESA’s Propulsion Engineering section.

“It confirms the test version of this revolutionary new class of engine is ready for implementation.”

The engine core is a major module of the complete SABRE engine and will later be combined with the pre-cooler and rocket nozzle. Reaction Engines says this core design and development activity is a “major undertaking” and when the tests are completed, major elements of the world’s first air-breathing engine capable of accelerating from zero to Mach 5 will have been demonstrated. 

Shaun Driscoll, Programmes Director, Reaction Engines, said: "This step opens the door to some exciting testing milestones which we will be undertaking in the next 18 months and moves us closer to the demonstration of the first SABRE engine, a unique class of scalable aerospace engines, which will revolutionise the way we travel around the globe, and get into orbit.”

Modular propulsion concept

“One of the great advantages of the SABRE propulsion concept is that it is totally modular from both design and operational perspectives” explained Richard Varvill, CTO, Reaction Engines. “Therefore, it is possible to subject each of the key components of the engine to rigorous ground testing, which fully mimics the operational conditions the engine will face up to Mach 5 flight at 25km altitude.”

The company will also soon begin testing its HTX ‘hot’ heat exchanger. The HTX test programme is a manufacturing and performance ground-level demonstration of the SABRE engine ‘Pre-Cooler’ heat exchanger in a high-temperature environment, similar to that expected to be seen by the SABRE engine during its air-breathing flight regime – up to 1000°C air inlet temperature.

Over the last four years, Reaction Engines has raised over £100million from public and private sources and had secured investment from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Boeing’s venture capital arm.

Last year, FINN interviewed Reaction Engines' CEO, Mark Thomas. Replay it here:

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