There are several companies out there – including Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace to name but a few – who are looking to monetize space tourism. But there is another company out there which recently got a £60 million investment from the UK government to build a full scale prototype for its revolutionary engine design. That company is called Reaction Engines Ltd (REL), based in Oxfordshire, England. Their spaceship designs are all purely in the concept stage for now, Skylon being the most talked about one. But what makes them really interesting is their SABRE engine technology.
While a working prototype still has to be build, these SABRE engines are ignited in air-breathing mode, burning hydrogen fuel with air. That air must then be heavily cooled (we are talking astronomical multipliers here) by heat exchangers before it can be used in the SABRE engines. Reaction Engines wants to use the technology on a unique spaceplane, which will in their vision have the capability of taking people to Earth’s stratosphere in just 15 minutes. Perhaps equally interesting is that it won’t just be a few people going up – they envision Skylon to have capacity for over two dozen passengers depending on configuration!
Obviously there are many more milestones to achieve for the company, and their 2019 goal for launching operational flights seems overly ambitious but nonetheless this is a company worth keeping an eye on. For now, enjoy the below animation of Reaction Engines‘ A2 vehicle, which would use Scimitar engines – basically the non-spaceflight version that has a much longer life span as a result. A flight from the UK to Australia would be covered in less than four hours!