back to article Brit rocket wranglers get Reaction they wanted after rattling SABRE

Britain's Reaction Engines has been given the greenlight to press ahead with an ambitious testing programme for its SABRE air-breathing rocket engine. The European Space Agency (ESA) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA) took a look at the preliminary design for the engine core of the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    With Boeing and DARPA in the loop, I hope they have their IP really tied down. I wish them luck though, it's good to see Brits leading in something.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Yes, British boffins at their finest :)

      I think Vlads hypersonic willy waving may have helped the finance along.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Because when a foreign military steals your technology to make hypersonic cruise missiles it's very important to be able to send them a threatening solictor's letter.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Too late

      All the tech will be in the Boeing Super Liner

  2. Alister Silver badge

    It's been a long time coming, I'm sure they were trying to get this built back in the 90s.

    Good to see them finally getting both the funding and recognition they deserve.

    1. Dave Bell

      I'm pretty sure I was hearing about this idea in 1987.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        At least 1984, possibly earlier...

        1. John Mangan

          I'm sure I saw somewhere..

          ..that in the early days they had support from the government. however when the government then chose to withdraw they paced some sort of embargo on the technology that prevented the designers from getting other funding. It sounds like SOP for our bunch of privileged leather warmers.

          Apparently the embargo timed our or was lifted a few years back. If I didn't create this in some fever dream.

          I would really like to see this fly before I die.

  3. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Loudest engine test rig in history?

    Getting enough inlet air up to 1000 degrees sounds like a job for a couple of big jet engines for heat (J58?) and another one(or more?) just for powering the fan. I'd like to see photo's of the final air-air heat exchangers that will be needed for this but they'd probably be top secret.

    Eventually the whole thing will need to ground tested to mach-5 - see title.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Loudest engine test rig in history?

      Jet engines can produce 1000 degrees of exhaust. Hot air at this temperature is a little more difficult. Mind you something like the cooler they are testing might be of use,

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Loudest engine test rig in history?

      According to the BBC's story, it will be multiple jet engines using reheat (that's afterburners for non-Brits).

  4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    Hot air?

    Driscoll told us: "We had to build a new test facility because we're effectively going to put 1,000°C air into this pre-cooler and to produce 1,000°C air at volume is not easy to do!"

    Have they tried Westminster?

    Also, is this intended for the proposed new German aircraft carrier? ISTR we used to be good at this sort of thing though, ie the trusty Bloodhound's ramjets.

  5. Spherical Cow

    Re-use the heat

    How about building two heat exchangers: the first heats & the second cools. They can be linked in a continuous loop for efficiency by re-using the heat. This is basically how many commercial flash-pasteurisation units work.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Re-use the heat

      The wiki page attempts to explain how this beast should work, and it seems packed full of interesting engineering challenges-

      The cooler consists of a fine pipework heat exchanger and cools the hot in-rushing atmospheric air down to the required −150 °C in 0.01s.

      That cools faster than my ex's! So they've done that, and apparently solved icing problems. I hope this gets enough funding to complete development as it looks like it could power some fun non-military space planes.

      1. Spherical Cow

        Re: Re-use the heat

        Yes, but now they want to test the cooler, which means they need a heater to heat the air for the cooler to cool. Keep in mind that the cooler not only cools the hot air going in, it also heats the cool stuff being used to cool the hot air. I'm saying link the cooler and heater together so the hot stuff coming out of the cooler heats the heater to heat the air to be cooled in the cooler. Is that cool?

        1. 0laf Silver badge

          Re: Re-use the heat

          To my layman's brain that wiki reads like a "Turbo Encabulator" advert except this is real.

          Fingers crossed this comes to fruition and we get to keep this as a UK industrial asset and not flog it off for a few million.

          Pints for boffinry and a request for a new icon of a boffin drinking a pint

        2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Re-use the heat

          I think it's all very cool. Like building an engine that can go from 0 to Mach 25+ in one compact and reusable package. So a bunch of heating/cooling challenges during operation, and then figuring out how to simulate it's passage through the atmosphere while safely on the ground.

          Which I guess is also where DARPA comes in, ie they did something similar to test the old nuclear engine.. which involved building a massive compressed air storage system. From reading the wiki article a few times, it sounds like this may do something similar with an F4 engine acting as a hot air generator. Fun times!

          But looks pretty revolutionary, and hope it doesn't get starved of funding. If it ends up essentially powering a space shuttle, but without the mass/volume/cost of that vehicle's fuel tanks and SRBs, then it should reduce the cost to orbit & make it easier/cheaper to ferry stuff to orbit to build larger space stations and jump off to the Moon or Mars. I guess it could also mean space-based fabrication becomes more plausible if Skylon/space plane can also bring stuff down.

  6. Aqua Marina

    "That's the future..."

    "..What a fascinating and modern age we live in."

    Yes I'm quoting Russell Crowe, but it's exactly how I feel right now. I read somewhere else that we have now entered a new industrial revolution being referred to as the "Exponential Age" . Our knowledge and technological achievements up until now have been incremental. Now, knowledge is increasing exponentially and our achievements equally so each year. I remember reading about this in the late 80s, and about HOTOL before that. It was considered science fiction. 30 years later now technology is catching up with the dream.

    It's a testament to the vision of the people that came up with these concepts decades ago. I only hope that they are still alive to see the end result of what they could see as a possibility, yet were restricted by our technical ability of the time.

    1. Mo'Fo B'dass

      Re: "That's the future..."

      Here, exploding technical achievements and exponential increase in knowledge. (or new and more devious ways of shooting ourselves in the foot and not having the conscious wit to realise it)

      We will trust the bigger and better machines, we will ignore warning signs as we will be seduced by the benefits. We will trust then get dependent on the technology we ourselves build and then one day the tech will fail badly and we wont have the capability to fix it (so back to the stone age).

      If a car failed you in the period 1950-1990 you could have a go at it with a spanner. You may or may not be able to have fixed it and be on your way. A car fails you now and you cant have a go at fixing it with a spanner so you have to get out and walk...scale that up to society level. Some future tech that our societies absolutely depend on - but cannot fix - fails...

      Any human being stranded on a desert island with a sharp stone and a few trees has a fighting chance of thinking up a way of building a raft and sailing off somewhere to safety. What do you do if you're stranded on the moon in a broken spaceship? It's broken? Nothing ever breaks and hasn't for decades. There are no tools to fix this stuff because none were ever required...until now.

      There are signs today if you look around that the future may not be rosy.

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        Re: "That's the future..."

        That really depends on your local engineering talent. As a field engineer, the reason I'd get called on quite often being in one of the most remote places on earth, something absolutely essential is broke, and they need an improvised solution "right the fuck now!" In every case, I hadn't ever met, nor been trained on that absolutely essential item.* It certainly helps that my favorite form of snack-food is engineering manuals especially for systems I almost always never meet. Lifelong learning carried to the extreme but there you are.

        * - Having to resort to Stone Age, or early Space Age, tech isn't a problem. Unlike most, I've actually made my own stone tools and up the tech stack as well. In about five years, I'll have worked up to air conditioning if it were necessary. I certainly hope I'll never need such, then again Heinlein is my guide here since I was a tyke.

  7. Grooke

    Woohoo! A real life R.A.P.I.E.R. engine!

  8. Jan 0

    I've been following this for a long time, is my memory failin?

    Am I right to think I remember a time when the captured liquid air was going to be distilled in flight to dump some of the nitrogen, before condensing it again as oxidiser for the rocket engine? That saves more weight, as only hydrogen fuel needs to be stored at take off. Of course, that only works if the machinery weighs less than the liquid oxygen.

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