BAE Systems plc and Reaction Engines Limited have recently announced a collaboration to develop a ground breaking new aerospace engine, the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine, or SABRE, which may be used in conjunction with intelligent aerospace management software.
Following a £20.6m investment from BAE, the development of the SABRE will combine both jet and rocket technologies to potentially revolutionise the economics of space access and hypersonic flight.
This large investment is part of a larger agreement, where BAE could acquire 20% of Reaction Engines’ share capital and enter into a working partner relationship, which will combine both BAE Systems’ aerospace industry knowledge and Reaction Engines’ industrial and technical resources.
The new SABRE engine will be designed to operate an aircraft from standstill on the runway to accelerate to speeds of up to over five times the speed of sound while in the earth’s atmosphere. The engine can then transition to a conventional rocket mode of operation, where the aircraft can carry out spaceflight at speeds of up to orbital velocity, which is 25 times the speed of sound.
The SABRE engine is the first engine design that could facilitate the development of multi-use single stage launch vehicles. This development has been achieved by creating a design that integrates two rocket modes, an air breathing mode that utilises atmospheric air as a source of oxygen to burn alongside its liquid hydrogen fuel and a conventional rocket mode that utilises on-board stores of liquid oxygen.
The development of the dual mode technology offers and exciting development in engine design, effectively creating a synthesis of rocket and gas turbine technology.
The partnership is also optimistic for additional grant funding of £60m from the UK government, which will be used to develop both a ground-based test engine and to investigate the applications for space access vehicles for SABRE.
Image: Reaction Engines