UK invests £60M in next-gen engine that would cut fly time from London to Sydney to 4 hours

By @vitthernandez on
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A next-generation Sabre engine is being developed in the UK by Reaction Engines, a company located at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire. The engine is a hybrid rocket and jet propulsion system. Reaction Engines

A next-generation Sabre engine is being developed in the UK by Reaction Engines, a company located at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire. The engine is a hybrid rocket and jet propulsion system.

In theory, an aircraft with that type of engine could travel anywhere on Earth in four hours or lesser time, reports The Independent. To help build the prototype Skylon superplus jet that would use the Sabre engine, the British government provided a £60 million (AUD$128.4 million) grant to Reaction Engines.

Once built, Reaction Engines would conduct a ground-based engine test in 2020. Unmanned test flights would be by 2025, reports BBC.

 If the test is successful, flying time between London and Sydney would be reduced to just four hours. The current flying time is 25 hours and 45 minutes via Hong Kong on British Airways, according to Prokerala. That’s from London’s Heathrow Airport to Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport.

The superplus jet would “rely on cooling an incoming airstream from 1,000 degrees C to minus 150 C almost, at close to 1/100th of a second.” It doubles the technical limits of a jet engine, in the process, allowing the plane to reach up to five times the speed of sound. It then switches to a rocket engine to reach orbit.

Besides the UK government, aerospace giant BAE also provided £20.6 million (AUD$44.1 million) to Reaction Engines by acquiring a 20 percent stake in the British firm.

Reaction Engines Managing Director Mark Thomas says, “Today’s announcement represents an important landmark in the transition of Reaction Engines from a company that has been focused on the research and testing of enabling technologies for the Sabre engine to one that is now focused on the development and testing of the world’s first Sabre engine.”

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