UK-based Reaction Engines has received further endorsement of its SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) design (earlier post) via its collaboration with ESA and the UK Space Agency (UKSA). The two agencies recently reviewed the preliminary design of the demonstrator engine core of the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE), which Reaction Engines will use to undertake ground-based testing at its under-construction test facility at Westcott, Buckinghamshire.
Reaction Engines has had a hugely supportive relationship with ESA and we are delighted with this further endorsement of the SABRE engine design. 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 revolutionize the way we travel around the globe, and get into orbit.—Shaun Driscoll, Programs Director, Reaction Engines
The positive conclusion of our Preliminary Design Review marks a major milestone in SABRE development. It confirms the test version of this revolutionary new class of engine is ready for implementation.—Mark Ford, head of ESA’s Propulsion Engineering section
Reaction Engines launched a significant new element of its development programme in October 2016 to design, build and demonstrate a SABRE engine core. The test item consists of an engine core, which is a major module of the complete SABRE engine, but without the pre-cooler and rocket nozzle in place.
This core design and development activity is a major undertaking and upon completion of the tests, major elements of the world’s first air-breathing engine capable of accelerating from zero to Mach 5 will have been demonstrated.
The SABRE hybrid engine blends jet and rocket technology. There are three core building blocks to SABRE: the pre-cooler, the engine core and the thrust chamber.
The SABRE engine core tests are part of a range of development activities currently underway at Reaction Engines. The company will shortly begin its HTX hot heat exchanger testing in a unique test facility it has constructed in Colorado, United States.
The HTX test program 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 more than £100 million (US$133 million) from public and private sources and had secured investment from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Boeing’s venture capital arm.
ESA, via the UK Space Agency has invested €10 million in SABRE development, together with £50 million from UKSA. ESA also performs a technical oversight role on behalf of UKSA.
ESA’s involvement began in 2010 with an independent review of SABRE’s viability, opening the way to UK government investment. Then in 2012 ESA collaborated with Reaction Engines testing of a key element of SABRE— the pre-cooler that cools the hot airstream entering the engine at hypersonic speed, the performance of which was fully validated under ambient air temperatures.
The complete air-breathing core demonstrator will be fully representative of the SABRE thermodynamic core cycle, fueled by liquid hydrogen, and will contain heat-exchangers, combustion and turbomachinery modules.