Skip to comments.Sabre engine could revolutionise space flight
Posted on 11/29/2012 9:54:12 AM PST by the scotsman
'A UK company which hopes to build a re-usable space plane has won an important endorsement from the European Space Agency (ESA) after completing key tests on its novel engine technology.
Reaction Engines believes its novel Sabre engine, which would operate like a jet engine in the atmosphere and a rocket in space, could displace rockets for space access and transform air travel by bringing any destination on earth to no more than four hours away.
That ambition was given a boost this week by ESA, which has acted as an independent auditor on the Sabre test programme.
"ESA are satisfied that the tests demonstrate the technology required for the Sabre engine development," the agency's head of propulsion engineering Mark Ford told a news conference.
"One of the major obstacles to a re-usable vehicle has been removed," he said.
"The gateway is now open to move beyond the jet age."'
(Excerpt) Read more at eandt.theiet.org ...
London To Sydney Spaceflight Edges Closer
‘A British company believes it is a step closer to building a rocket plane that would get from London to Sydney within four hours.’
4:20pm UK, Wednesday 28 November 2012
Thomas Moore, Health And Science Correspondent
‘British engineers have successfully tested a key component of an engine that could power a spaceplane from London to Sydney in under four hours.
The engineers have hailed it as the biggest breakthrough in aerospace propulsion “since the invention of the jet engine”.
Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines hope to build a rocket plane called Lapcat that would take off from an ordinary runway, reach speeds of around 19,000mph in the upper atmosphere and then land like a normal jet aircraft.
While still in the atmosphere, the plane’s Sabre engine would combine on-board hydrogen fuel with oxygen that it “breathes” from the air. But the air needs to be super-cooled for the engine to work.
The company has now demonstrated a lightweight heat exchanger that pre-cools incoming air from 1000 degrees Celsius to minus 150 degrees in 1/100th of a second - six times faster than the blink of an eye - without blocking pipes with a layer of frost.
Alan Bond, who founded the company and led the research, said: “The team has been trying to solve this problem for over 30 years and we’ve finally done it.
“The Sabre engine has the potential to revolutionise our lives in the 21st century in the way the jet engine did in the 20th Century.”
The tests were validated by the European Space Agency.
Science minister David Willetts MP said: “This is a remarkable achievement for a remarkable company. Building on years of unique engineering know-how, Reaction Engines has shown the world that Britain remains at the forefront of technological innovation and can get ahead in the global race.”
The Sabre engine could also power a re-useable rocket plane called Skylon that could carry a large payload into space, reducing the cost of launching a satellite by more than 10 times.
By using available oxygen in the atmosphere it would reduce the amount of fuel it needs to carry, so it could reach orbit in a single stage. Current rockets require costly multiple stages which are jettisoned during their ascent.’
Is it similar to the SCRAMJET?.........
Skylon in flight showing the Sabre engine
Not really, it uses a cryogenic precooler to cool the incoming air before stuffing it into the rocket nozzles.
They had a successful test of the precooler recently.
It’s not so much a scramjet as it is a ducted rocket with cooled air being fed to it from outside.
Inverse cycle engine or some such?
Seems to me that’s what it may be called.
Don’t quote me on that one.
I don’t ‘get’ why a great heat exchanger is so important.
Seems like it would be cooling waste heat that would better be used for propulsion.
Wow! That's quite remarkable. I would have said "that's impossible" but it sounds like they have bragging rights.
Like the SST, it'll be too pricey/noisy for commercial flight
It'll be more like getting from Edwards AFB to Benghazi within four hours
This is gotta be a scam for seeking funding, for a project they know will go nowhere, but which will keep them happily employed for a decade. In his book “Skunk Works”, Ben Rich describes his exploration of an SR-71 replacement concept that was to be hydrogen powered.
They decided it was a bad idea for a lot of reasons. A big one is demonstrated by the space shuttle. The giant external tank is mostly liquid hydrogen. Rich quickly learned you would need an enormous supply on board because they could not be refueled on a long flight. ( ie,,London to Sydney)
Also, it’s very dangerous to store and handle in large quantities. He described his trip to the national bureau of standards to meet with an expert about hydrogen and learn all he could. He describes how horrified that guy was when he asked how hard it would be to run a tank farm storing the stuff.
Hydrogen has it’s fine uses, but i doubt airliner fuel is one of them.
And sure enough, towards the end of the article,,
“The HOTOL study was launched in 1986, but two years later the government refused to fund it further.
In 1989 Bond helped form Reaction and designed its new concept craft, Skylon.”
Which he hopes ESA will fund now.
I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that bit... What in the world could cool air that fast?
A cryogenic precooler?......
Liquid hydrogen, or methane.
Either will work, but the plumbing is slightly different between them.
It is a cryogenic engine.
Probably punches holes in the ozone layer.
Ergo, we MUST KILL IT!.................
My first wife could have accomplished that, but alas that’s only one engine... LOL
Think of it as a Bomber rather than Air liner. It skips into space and can’t be shot down, then comes in to drop weapons. Yes, as a weapon of war it will be built.
yes, it is a very easy concept. in chemistry you learn
PV = nRT
where p is pressure, v is volume, and t is temp
you can rearrange to T = PV / nR
so when the pressure goes up temperature goes up. at scramjet speeds the incoming pressure is waaaaaay up.
they even make small portable piston based fire starters based on this principle.
The cost of spaceflight is not the fuel or vehicles, it is the overhead.
Here is how to lower the cost of spaceflight:
1: Fire all the lawyers and bureaucrats.
2: Separate flights for cargo and humans.
3: Taxes in space, stay in space.
“What in the world could cool air that fast? “
Shock waves can cool just as well as they heat.
The materials I have studied said the hydrogen-fuel jet project was first. When it was abandoned, The SR-71 took shape, with Ben Rich’s major contribution being the Turbo/ramjet that was finally used.
No, the SCRAMJET must be brought up to operating speed with jet engines or rockets. This one is supposed to be able to take off from the ground, although I believe it would be more efficient for it to be dropped from a cargo jet.
A few basic unanswered questions....
1: How much coolant was used to achieve this temperature conversion rate per mass of airflow?
2: From this, how much coolant would be required for a 4 hour flight (for the engines and airframe cooling)?
3: How much weight/volume/precautions will this add to the aircraft?
4: Where is face palm guy?
I should add that the SCRAMJET only operates in the atmosphere while this engine can operate both in the atmosphere and in space.
There was an article about this in PopSci a few, hmm, maybe five years back. It’s an interesting idea — supercooling the oxygen is a necessity in order to get any thrust out of it. Ordinarily, superheated oxygen merely oxidizes the fuel, bring the thrust down to near-zero like right about now, boom. So various bright people thought, wait, what if we cool it?
The savings of not hauling oxygen — and cryo oxygen is very compact in comparison with the hydrogen this craft would also be hauling — add a little to the mass budget. I should point out that single stage to orbit (SSTO) vehicles are and have been feasible, technically, for some time now. But they are rather like that joke about isometric exercise — isometrics are great for people who want to do more isometrics.
The point of the SSTO is said to be one thing, but basically it would result in a very small payload into orbit. SSTOs are a beguiling problem, but they are an end unto themselves, rather than a solution to other problems. Perhaps the only eventual use for any SSTO is to deliver unmanned smallish payloads to orbit, perhaps somewhat cheaper (though probably not), and tumble back through the atmosphere for recovery and recycling for another flight, not unlike the SRBs from the Space Shuttle.
The streaming vids of those separating and tumbling back to Earth are awesome, btw.
The more recyclable the craft, the smaller the eventual payload, and it’s not difficult to see how.
At least one earlier SSTO concept (from the US) called for a craft that would take off like a plane, carrying fuel, but breathing atmospheric oxygen; as it gained sufficient velocity, it would use its variable geometry inlet to turn its engine into a ramjet; as velocity continue to rise, the engine would become a scramjet; eventually this would result in an altitude beyond which insufficient oxygen is available, even at the high velocity, and cryo oxygen carried aboard the craft would first supplement, then replace the outside oxygen, making it a straight-up rocket engine.
The problem with the concept was and is, weight savings from not carrying oxygen would be at least partly offset by the added weight of the shifty engines. And again, the vehicle would have a small payload.
Here’s a fun idea from NASA — a sort of iterative concept growing out of Gerald Bull’s early 1960s experiments of firing “Martlets” out of extended gun barrels into suborbital trajectories at least 70 miles high. Too bad he tried to build his Supergun for Saddam, didn’t quite live through that one.
From reading about this in PopSci, I remember being struck by the method they used for the variable geometry inlet — it was invented by the Skunk Works, and used in the SR-71, the only aircraft publicly known that was capable of sustained flight above Mach 3.
There is an SR71 about three miles from here at the AF Armament Museum. I’ll havta check it out.......
Folks in L.A. can always take a pleasant day trip into the High Desert
Where does the air come from if outer space is a vacuum with no air?
Now *that’s* what I’m talkin’ about...
Thanks Red Badger.
That is a B-52 behind it.......
In atmosphere it acts as an air breathing ducted rocket.
The incoming air is here in the atmosphere.
Higher up, they have liquid ox for the needs of the ducted rockets.