Alan Bond of Reaction Engines has announced that the upcoming development phase of the SKYLON SSTO spaceplane will be expanded from £240 million to £360 million, and will now include the construction of a full-scale working version of the Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE). The programme is funded to £60 million by the UK government, with the remainder intended to come from commercial backers.
Reaction Engines is also working with Thales Alenia Space on the design of a reusable geostationary transfer stage.
Reaction Engines Ltd have signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for a €1 million study into the next European Launch System.
The “Skylon-based European Launch Service Operator” contract has been finalised by the Launcher Directorate of the European Space Agency in Paris, France and work has started to study how the SKYLON spaceplane can meet Europe’s Space access demands in terms of cost, flexibility and responsiveness, from the early 2020’s.
The study will be concluded by the end of the year, with input from a number of companies. ThalesAlenia Space in Italy will be designing the SKYLON Upper Stage (SUS) systems for GEO satellite deployment; QinetiQ Space in Belgium are to study the various payload carriers within the vehicle’s payload bay to ensure maximum mission flexibility; London Economics are preparing the business model to independently assess economic case; Grafton Technology, based in the UK and supported by the civil engineering company, Jacobs, are studying the necessary spaceport facilities at Kourou for SKYLON. Also supporting the study in the definition of the payload connections is 42 Technology Ltd, based in the UK.
Chief engineer Alan Bond "shellshocked" by size of award
More details are emerging regarding the UK government funding of the SABRE air-breathing rocket engine designed by Reaction Engines Ltd, as the propulsion system for the Skylon single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane. The award was formally announced by Science Minister David Willetts at the UK Space Conference in Glasgow.
Chancellor George Osborne plans to release £35 million in 2014-15, and £25 million in 2015-16 to help fund the development of a full-scale ground demonstrator of a SABRE engine. The sum represents around a quarter of the full sum required for the engine programme. The remainder is expected to come from commercial investment.
Alan Bond, chief engineer at REL, said the next nine months should see the extra financing come together. "I cannot go into detail at this time because it's commercially confidential, but I have every belief that the other investment will come along to support the programme," he told BBC News.
George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that Reaction Engines Ltd has been awarded £60M ($91M) in technology infrastructure funding as part of the 2013 Comprehensive Spending Review. The Government has identified a number of key science and technology infrastructure projects to support in an effort to drive economic growth, and the Synergistic Air Breathing Rocket Engine, a key component of the Skylon single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane, was singled out.
Although the specific amount did not appear in the initial CSR documents, Osborne tweeted his personal support for the project and indicated the size of the award.
Just seen SABRE -a rocket engine that cools air from 1000 degrees to -150 in fraction of a second.We're backing the future with £60m funding
Rocketeer comments: Er. Wow. Congratulations to all concerned! £60M isn't full Phase 3 (they're about £140M short), but it's a decent chunk of change and they should be able to make some good progress. Hopefully, government recognition as a key UK tech infrastructure project should also help with securing commercial funding.
More thoughts to follow. I'll leave this pinned for the time being.
Fine Tubes technology continues to support developments in aerospace with its lightweight tubing used in the heat exchange system of Skylon’s SABRE engine.
Fine Tubes (www.finetubes.com) a leading metal tubes manufacturer specialising in the aerospace, medical, chemical process, nuclear, power and oil and gas sectors has cause to celebrate as a 10 year project sees results.
After a decade of work with Reaction Engines – developers of Skylon, one of the world’s first reusable space planes – Fine Tubes can announce that testing of its contribution has been a success.
The company manufactured over 2000km of tubing for Skylon, with each tube at a wall thickness of just half the diameter of a human hair. Reaction Engines’ objective is so challenging that a lot of goals had to be met; the tubes had to be lightweight, highly heat and pressure resistant, and have a strength that could cope with thermal expansions. The resulting heat exchangers are 100 times lighter than existing technologies and enable the cooling of airstreams from over 1000°C to -150°C in less than 1/100th of a second.
Dr Robert Bond , Corporate Programmes Director of Reaction Engines commented, "No one else has managed to create heat exchangers like this before, due in part to the fact that the specifications for the components are very demanding. There are a few other companies which can produce the kind of high tech tube we need but the Fine Tubes product is extremely high quality, meeting all the project specifications and we are very pleased with its performance."
Fine Tubes used Inconel, a nickel alloy that has excellent heat resistance. Because of the amount of tubing required, it had to be as lightweight as possible. Inconel is a difficult material to shape and the thinness required meant it was easily damaged, so to fulfil Reaction Engines’ requirements Fine Tubes installed completely new equipment for the tube cleaning process at its tube mill.
Now, testing of the heat exchange system for SABRE – Skylon’s Hybrid Engine – has proved 10 years of work a worthy cause for Fine Tubes. The testers confirmed that all demonstration objectives were met for the SABRE engine’s pre-cooler heat exchanger, and found the cooling technology to be frost-free at the crucial low temperature of -150°C.
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."
As soon as Reaction Engines hits its next funding goal, work will continue towards the next phase of testing in building the prototype of a fully functioning engine.
Ronen Day , Managing Director of Fine Tubes said, "Developing a lightweight heat exchange system was one of the major issues standing in the way of the space plane’s development. With Fine Tubes’ contribution now proven by successful testing, Skylon is set to be a major breakthrough in the aerospace sector."
After this testing success, the technologies involved in Skylon’s SABRE engine are now being applied to other projects, for example the second phase of the LAPCAT (Long-term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies) project. The study intends to investigate further technological developments that can reduce long distance flights to under four hours.
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.