Another Skylon overview, this time by CNN. Bond is quoted as saying that test flights could take place as early as 2018. David Baker of the British Interplanetary Society highlights the importance of a high flight rate in making a reusable system efficient and affordable.
Rocketeer comments: Baker: The concept of reusability could be "absorbed into the commercial world in the next decade or two". I think it could happen significantly faster than that, given that we're just a few months away from the first barge landing of an F9R boost stage, and Musk plans to refly a returned stage in 2015.
The Oxford Mail reports that upcoming expansion in engineering, manufacturing and administration roles for Reaction Engines will create 100 new jobs. The firm already employs 45 people at its main site at Culham, Oxfordshire, with 15 others based in Wantage and Newbury, Berkshire.
Given the recent European Space Agency S-ELSO study indicating that Skylon is 'financially feasible', the Engineer magazine polled its readership on what the next course of action should be. A plurality of respondents (35%) thought that Skylon should be fully funded by ESA as its next launcher system.
The latest version of the Skylon Users' Guide (v2.1) has been published by Reaction Engines. Version 2 was extensively revised in light of the development of the D1 vehicle configuration, and the ESA S-ELSO study into the economics of a Skylon-based launch system.
Reaction Engines Ltd announces the completion of the most detailed study to date on the SKYLON vehicle’s systems and infrastructure
The SKYLON-based European Launch Service Operator (S-ELSO) study has been carried out in response to the European Space Agency’s ‘New European Launch Service’ requirements for lowering the cost of European launch services in the 2020 – 2040 timeframe. The study was led by Reaction Engines with support from Airbus Defence and Space, Grafton Technology, London Economics, Jacobs, QinetiQ Space, and Thales Alenia Space.
SKYLON is a reusable launch vehicle designed to be powered by the SABRE rocket engine, a new class of engine that offers significantly improved performance compared to conventional rocket technology. The €1M ESA-funded study has identified and evaluated SKYLON’s key systems and infrastructure to prove that all current mission requirements for ESA launches can be fulfilled, whilst reducing the cost and increasing reliability over existing expendable launch vehicle technology. The study came to a number of conclusions:
- SKYLON vehicles operated from Europe’s launch site in French Guiana, together with a reusable upper stage, can meet all Europe’s launch operator requirements.
- SKYLON is potentially Europe’s most cost effective space access solution, and is able to compete with existing and anticipated competition.
- The SKYLON system, benefitting from its reusable design, has the potential to significantly undercut the price performance of the world’s most competitive current launch systems.
- Once operational, SKYLON and its infrastructure can be operated independently of public subsidy, allowing economic exploitation of the launch vehicle.
- A wide range of payloads can be supported within SKYLON’s 15 tonne to LEO payload
capability. This includes mini, micro, and nano -scale satellites, either individually or in
constellations, and reusable upper stages to allow higher orbits to be reached.
- SKYLON offers additional capabilities that previous European launchers cannot, e.g.
spacecraft return, in-orbit servicing and human passengers.
BBC Science correspondent, Jonathan Amos, reports on the findings of a study of the economic feasibility of SKYLON (a conceptual reusable single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane) and a SKYLON–based European Launch Service Operator (S-ELSO), validated by the London Economics Aerospace team.
“It appears a feasible proposition, economically. That is the conclusion of a study that considered a European launch service based on a Skylon re-usable spaceplane. The report, commissioned by the European Space Agency (Esa), was led by Reaction Engines Limited (REL) of Oxfordshire with help from a range of other contractors such as London Economics, QinetiQ and Thales Alenia Space (TAS).”
Lecture given by Alan Bond, Managing Director of Reaction Engines at Merton College, Oxford. posted in March 2014.
A few highlights:
* To date, the engine pre cooler test programme has included 600 tests, 300 in cryogenic pre cooler mode. Precooler has run at -150C, -120C in steady state. Demonstrated stable flow, transitional between turbulent and laminar flow. Verified thermomechanical and aerodynamic integrity, fulfilled technical objectives of ESA programme.
* The STILETTO staged combustion engine tested by Airborne Engineering and intended for the A2 hypersonic airliner, demonstrated a reduction in NOx levels below detectability. Functions by accelerating the flow while combustion is taking place, such that the static temperature of the flow never exceeds 2000K (some combustion pressure is lost as a result). Estimated range of A2 vehicle 21,000km at Mach 5, 23,000km subsonic.
* The latest iteration of the SABRE engine, SABRE 4, halves fuel consumption in air breathing mode. Self-ferrying of a vehicle from the UK to an equatorial launch site is possible. SABRE 4 may provide sufficient margin to install high-lift devices to shorten takeoff run.
* REL currently employs over 60 people.
* REL studying reactivation of Westcott K-site (formerly used for testing Polaris missile motors), to test rocket engines of up to 120 tons thrust.
* Phase 3 ramp up has started already (shown as Jan-Apr 2014), expected to last 3.5yr to Oct 2018.
* Vehicle cost ~£1bn. REL sees a global market for ~30 vehicles. Mission cost £5-10M. Mission lead time ~days. 1/20,000 failure rate (LOV) at entry into service, improving to 1/10^6 over time. Various mission abort scenarios discussed.
* AFRL interest is in “verifying engine cycles to see if they work”. Avio and ESA have already checked this. Reply by end of May?
* REL in dialogue with aerospace firms around the world. AB envisions distinct Euro and US efforts, driven by ITAR. US vehicle would have US engines built by US-based REL-subsidiary, in US airframe.
* AB expects competition from other (presumably airbreathing) projects, sparked by Osborne funding announcement.