No new information in the articles. However, Alan Bond, chief designer of the Skylon, will be keynote speaker at the UKSEDS National Student Space Conference this weekend. I await any updates on Phase 3 funding with bated breath.
The Skylon SSTO spaceplane project was featured on the 4th February broadcast of The One Show, a peak-time news-and-light-entertainment programme on BBC One. The segment featured Maggie Aderin-Pocock interviewing Alan Bond, lead designer of the Skylon. The programme was positive about the project, but didn't provide any new information (as expected). A first flight date of 2020 was mentioned.
The successful tests promoted REL from #31 to #27 in the NSG 100 ranking of NewSpace companies. The "Phase 3" funding of around £250M for development of a full ground-test SABRE engine was understood to be contingent on the successful conclusion of the precooler tests. Recent hirings at REL would indicate that the funding situation is positive, but the status of the full Phase 3 funding is unknown. Clark Lindsey reports that "New York-based investors are following RXNE, although to date it is yet unknown how much of the £250M has been raised".
As Nextbigfuture points out, the REL heat exchangers are 100 times lighter than competing technology and have a wide range of industrial applications including conventional combustion engines, nuclear facilities and desalination plants, so REL's future seems bright regardless of developments in the launch services sector.
Reaction Engines Ltd. can announce today the biggest breakthrough in aerospace propulsion technology since the invention of the jet engine. Critical tests have been successfully completed on the key technology for SABRE, an engine which will enable aircraft to reach the opposite side of the world in under 4 hours, or to fly directly into orbit and return in a single stage, taking off and landing on a runway.
SABRE, an air-breathing rocket engine, utilises both jet turbine and rocket technology. Its innovative pre-cooler technology is designed to cool the incoming airstream from over 1,000C to minus 150C in less than 1/100th of a second (six times faster than the blink of an eye) without blocking with frost. The recent tests have proven the cooling technology to be frost-free at the crucial low temperature of -150C.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has evaluated the SABRE engine's pre-cooler heat exchanger on behalf of the UK Space Agency, and has given official validation to the test results:
"The pre-cooler test objectives have all been successfully met and ESA are satisfied that the tests demonstrate the technology required for the SABRE engine development."
Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts said: "This is a remarkable achievement for a remarkable company. Building on years of unique engineering know-how, Reaction Engines has shown the world that Britain remains at the forefront of technological innovation and can get ahead in the global race. This technology could revolutionise the future of air and space travel."
Well over 100 test runs, undertake at Reaction Engines Ltd's facility in Oxfordshire, integrated the ground-breaking flight-weight cooling technology and frost control system with a jet engine and a novel helium cooling loop, demonstrating the new technologies in the SABRE engine that drive its highly innovative and efficient thermodynamic cycle. This success adds to a series of other SABRE technology demonstrations undertaken by the company including contra-rotating turbines, combustion chambers, rocket nozzles, and air intakes and marks a major advance towards the creation of vehicles like SKYLON, a new type of reusable space vehicle that will be powered by SABRE engines, designed primarily to transport satellites and cargo into space. Wednesday 28 November 2012 Alan Bond, who founded Reaction Engines to re-build the UK's rocket propulsion industry and has led the research from the start, said:
"These successful tests represent a fundamental breakthrough in propulsion technology. Reaction Engines' lightweight heat exchangers are going to force a radical re-think of the design of the underlying thermodynamic cycles of aerospace engines. These new cycles will open up completely different operational characteristics such as high Mach cruise and low cost, re-usable space access, as the European Space Agency's validation of Reaction Engines' SABRE engine has confirmed. The REL team has been trying to solve this problem for over 30 years and we've finally done it. Innovation doesn't happen overnight. Independent experts have confirmed that the full engine can now be demonstrated. The SABRE engine has the potential to revolutionise our lives in the 21st century in the way the jet engine did in the 20th Century. This is the proudest moment of my life."
Dr Mark Ford, ESA's Head of Propulsion Engineering, said:
"One of the major obstacles to developing air-breathing engines for launch vehicles is the development of lightweight high-performance heat exchangers. With this now successfully demonstrated by Reaction Engines Ltd, there are currently no technical reasons why the SABRE engine programme cannot move forward into the next stage of development."
Michael Oliveri, a Muscular Dystrophy sufferer, is aiming to become the first disabled person in space, by holding a Kickstarter campaign to raise $500,000 to fly into space on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.
"As a result of a successful test programme, Reaction Engines Ltd. is now entering an exciting phase and is looking to expand rapidly the number of technical experts within the business.
"This is your opportunity to join the organisation that will conceivably have the biggest impact on the aerospace propulsion industry since Sir Frank Whittle's original design."
Programme Manager: "This is a new appointment responsible for delivering current and future programmes within strict times and performance criteria, whilst optimising the commercial opportunities, reducing risk and driving profitability and cash."
Contracts Manager: "...responsibility for leading the commercial/legal function within the organisation. This will be a hands on role, being actively involved in contractual negotiations, bidding for major contracts and identifying and mitigating any risk for the business. The scope for this role will involve vendors, customers and alliances."
Senior Engineers: "Reaction Engines is seeking to grow significantly its engineering department with a specific focus on recruitment of thermodynamics, aerodynamics, CFD and structures experts."
Design Engineers: "Reaction Engines is seeking to grow significantly its design department with a specific focus on recruitment of CAD specialists (ideally Solid Works)."
Rocketeer comments: Sounds like a pre-Phase 3 buildup. Here's hoping...