The US Military has turned to space planes and the technology being engineered for them,as it searches for ways to jumpstart its fledgling hypersonic aircraft line. Specifically, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory U.S.A.F. Research Laboratory (A.F.R.L.) has been examining the Skylone space plane which would be powered by the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE).
In a statement to Space.com, the A.F.R.L. explained, “AFRL is formulating plans to look at advanced vehicle concepts based on Reaction Engine’s heat-exchanger technology and SABRE engine concept.”
This should come as no surprise, as the SABRE and the Skylon it will be powering, are being hailed as the next steps forward in aeronautics and space travel. Alan Bond, and his team at Reaction Engines, invented both- making them a very sought after resource. The core of the success of this project is the SABRE, the revolutionary purpose-built power source. The SABRE is designed to burn both hydrogen and oxygen. This allows the SABRE to operate as a jet engine in our lower atmosphere; meaning, taking in and combining oxygen to combust with liquid hydrogen. However, when the the SABRE reaches 16 miles in altitude, it converts over to the onboard oxygen tank to achieve orbit and hypersonic flights (at least Mach 5- five times the speed of sound).
As for its actual usage, two SABREs- used in tandem, will be powering the Skylon. This bold new space plane concept is single-stage-to-orbit, completely privately funded. More impressive is the size of the Skylon: 276 feet long and 303 tons (84 meters and 275,000 kg).
The SABRE engine is known as what is called a “heat exchanger” or “pre-cooler.” This means that all air that passes through the engine will be super cooled over 1600 degrees, from 1832 down to 238 degree Fahrenheit. This will liquefy the oxygen, given the engine it’s much needed oxygen supply.
It is these possibilities which have driven the A.F.R.L. to approach Reaction Engines and do their own research and testing. In the afore mentioned Space.com article, Bond verified this by saying, “The Air Force research laboratories in the States have carried out some modeling to verify that the SABRE does actually work, that it is a real engine, and so I am hoping they are going to confirm that very soon.”
“This is obviously opening doors in the United States, and again, I can’t say a great deal about that, but we have very good dialogue going across the Atlantic,” he added. “In the next couple of years, it’s going to be quite exciting.”
Moving forward, Reaction is looking to test two SABRE engines some time in 2019. Bond is hoping to do this testing on Westcott, the spot of the early UK space program in the 50s and 60s. Bringing focus and prestige to the one-great space program.
It is this exchange of ideas that also promises to push things forward with the SABRE and Skylon, as Bond and his team push forward towards this groundbreaking concept plane. As Reaction Engines pushes towards complete funding they are obviously going in the right direction when they are catching the attention of engineering firms and the A.F.R.L. who want a closer look at what might be the next leap forward.
US Military Look to Space Plane For High Speed Flights
By Military Travel Exchange