Re: Tomorrow, tomorrow...
" One does wonder if Skylon is being developed by one old boy in his garden shed, who's funding it from his pension."
Well, perhaps you and maybe Elon Musk might count £60million from the UK gov to be "garden shed" levels of effort. But at the stage of proving the principals fo the propulsion system and design work, that sounds like a good level of funding.
Once the propulsion system is well understood the actual design and building of the whole aircraft should be a fairly low risk. It's not like there's any particular mystery about how to make a vehicle operate in space, and guidance and control systems for that kind of thing simply build on the many successful developments done previously all round the world over the past 6 decades.
Too Good to Pass Over?
Really the only question is will anyone stump up the money? There in lies an interesting question with a heavy dose of politics.
First, the Europeans backing Ariane have gone for an Ariane 6. They might not be too keen on funding a competing launcher that might show up their initial choice of Ariane 6 as having been a waste of money.
Second, the Americans sometimes suffer from bouts of "not invented here" syndrome, though they did buy up and get interested in Russian engines.
Third, the current wave of space-enthusiast private investors have all plumped for rockets, and even they might find it too difficult to toss all that away and buy into Skylon.
Fourth, the Russians simply haven't got the money.
Fifth, the Chinese like to be able to say that they did it all by themselves.
Sixth, British investors are often not ambitious enough for something like this.
Seventh, investors / backers / competitors all over are probably at this moment asking themselves whether they can afford to buy into the project.
Whatever. Given that it looks pretty certain that the propulsion system would work it is arguably simply a case of when, not if, it gets built. If it does get built and it works, whoever owns it will own the launcher market. The rocket guys would be instantly out of date, uncompetitve and doomed.
The first investor that asks themselves whether they can afford to not buy into it, that's the investor who might clean up.
It's not even as if the project could be bought, canned buried. UK gov has a stake in it, so the IPR is not wholly purchasable. And besides, ideas are difficult to bury forever. Once thought of, forever known.
(I have no connection whatsoever to REL, Skylon, etc).