The shakedown processes for the pre-cooler testing are going well. Progress has been made on the helium loop, liquid nitrogen cooling system and the Viper engine ready for pre-cooler testing to commence.
Speaker: Mark Hempsell, Future Programmes Director, Reaction Engines Limited
Currently every mission to space destroys a rocket costing between $40 million and $200 million and taking around three years to build. The vision of SKYLON is a fully reusable spaceplane that can take off from a runway like an aeroplane, reach orbit with 15 tonnes of cargo, and then return to land back on the runway. This will reduced the cost of reaching space by an order of magnitude. The talk outlines the SKYLON vehicle and highlights the material technologies being developed to achieve this vision by 2020.
Annual General Meeting (AGM): The REL AGM took place on 7th Dec 2011 at the company’s headquarters in Oxfordshire. After the meeting the shareholders were taken on a tour of the new production facility at the Culham Science Centre. REL received positive feedback on the progress made.
7th Appleton Space Conference: Alan Bond gave a progress update on the SKYLON programme at the event on 8 Dec. He was able to report that while the pre-cooler development was proceeding slower than hoped; all other research and development work had equaled or surpassed expectation. He also stated that it was likely that funding for the next stage was going to be slightly delayed pending completion of the pre-cooler test programme.
Flight International reports that SABRE engine precooler validation tests are expected to start this month:
The Final Module The 25th and last pre-cooler heat exchanger module to be made as part of the Technology Demonstration Programme was finished this month. The image shows the module entering the brazing furnace. The assembly of the complete pre-cooler, which uses 21 of these modules, is now in its final stages.
New Production Facility Reaction Engines has started its move into a new production facility at the Culham Science Centre. It has over 600 square metres floor area and will house both the company’s heat exchanger development and general fabrication activities during the next phase of the SABRE engine’s development.
Alan Bond receives the Geoffrey Pardoe Space Award
Photos from the Skylon status update given by Alan Bond of Reaction Engines at the BIS Propulsion meeting held at RAF Cosford last weekend.
Apologies for the poor quality, but I'd drained the battery on my decent camera the previous day and didn't have the charger with me, so I had to resort to using my phone ;p
Some brief notes:-
* Bond described the current structure of the Reaction Engines group, including its manufacturing subsidiaries
* He discussed the complexities involved in manufacturing the very fine tubes required for the pre coolers, and assembling them into the finished modules. The tubes are checked by automated electromagnetic sensors, with any anomalies passed to human inspectors.
* The thermodynamic cycle of the SABRE-3 engine was outlined.
* He showed preliminary photos and videos from the STRICT altitude-compensating nozzle test firings undertaken by Airborne Engineering at Westcott. The use of altitude compensation would cut the typical Skylon takeoff run by 600m.
* Low-NOx combustor development work for the EU-funded LAPCAT programme was described.
* Cryogen plumbing is in place in the B9 test area at Culham in preparation for precooler flow tests
* Bond described objectives of the Phase 3 development programme.
- raise SABRE engine technology to TRL 6 through ground testing
- complete the design of the SABRE 4 to manufacturing drawings
- ensure that the vehicle requirements and SABRE 4 engine design are compatible
- Flight test the nacelle design
It is likely that Phase 3 will grow from the specified 30 months to at least 39 months.
* First images of the proposed Nacelle Test Vehicle were shown. The NTVs are 'one-shot' expendable flight test vehicles, propelled by LOX-methane biprops, and intended for aerodynamic verification of the nacelle geometry. The NTVs appear as 'scaled-down' Skylons, and are 9m long, with a 3.5m wingspan, massing approx 1 tonne each.
* Tests with LOX film cooling of combustion chambers was conducted in conjunction with DLR at Lampoldhausen. The results were very promising.
* Other development work includes: CFD modelling of re-entry heating by DLR. Bond noted that modelled heating levels were remarkably low.