Skylon is a space plane being developed by British company Reaction Engines Limited, and is being built as the world’s first fully reusable space plane! (a spacecraft that can take off and land horizontally like a conventional aircraft – first space vehicle which can do such thing). Each Skylon space plane is intended to be reusable over 200 times. It is a huge improvement over any space vehicle in active use nowadays.
What is so special about the plane? Its engines called Sabre, which are hydrogen fueled pre-cooled air breathing rocket engines which should open new doors in space travel.
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Engines, which should be capable to reach orbit in a single stage. Yeah…you could think that we should have already reached that point taking into account that we landed on the moon on 20 July 1969. Unfortunately NASA or any other organisation hasn’t made any significant progress in the propulsion matter. Moreover NASA has shut down its shuttle program and hasn’t introduce anything else to replace it so far.
So who first came out with the idea of Sabra engine? Well, it is an evolution of Alan Bond’s series of liquid air cycle engine (LACE) and LACE-like designs that started in the early/mid-1980s for the HOTOL project. Yes, it took some time and afford to get to the point where we can really imagine the engines being use by our space planes to get us to the orbit or maybe somewhere father away.
Fortunately In November of 2012, company which designs the Skylon – Reaction Engines announced it had successfully concluded a series of tests that prove the cooling technology of the engine which one was of the main obstacle towards the completion of the project. Furthermore, The European Space Agency (ESA) has evaluated the SABRE engine’s pre-cooler heat exchanger, and believes the technologies required to proceed with the engine’s development have been fully demonstrated. The announcement which brings us one step closer to first fully operational Skylon space plane.
Do you want to know more? Below you can see document showing development of Skylon.