Ground breaking new aerospace engine announced

Posted on 3 Nov 2015 by Fred Tongue

BAE Systems and Reaction Engines Limited have announced a collaboration to develop a ground breaking new aerospace engine. 

The two companies have announced that they will be accelerating the development of Reaction Engines‘ Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) engine, combining jet and rocket technologies with the potential to revolutionise hypersonic flight  and the economics of space access.

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There will be a £20.6m investment from BAE in the project, so long as it is approved by the Reaction Engines’ shareholders.

The investment is part of an agreement that would see BAE acquire 20% of Reaction Engines share capital and see the two enter in to a working partner relationship.

The relationship will draw on the technology and knowledge that BAE Systems has in the aerospace industry, as well as project management expertise and provide Reaction Engines with the industrial, technical and capital resources that the company requires to complete a ground based engine.

Under the new agreement, BAE Systems will enter into a preferred supplier relationship with Reaction Engines in certain agreed areas and will have representation on the board of Reaction Engines.

Illustration of SABRE engine.
Illustration of SABRE engine.

The new SABRE engine is designed to enable aircraft to operate from standstill on the runway to speeds of over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere.

The engine can then transition in to a rocket mode of operation, allowing spaceflight at speeds up to orbital velocity, or 25 times the speed of sound.

The UK Government is expected to confirm grant funding of £60m for Reaction Engines to further SABRE’s development towards a ground based test engine and to investigate its applications for space access vehicles.

Together with BAE Systems’ investment, this significant injection of capital will support Reaction Engines’ transition from a successful research phase into development and testing of the engine, including plans to expand its workforce of skilled engineers.

Managing director of Reaction Engines Limited, Mark Thomas commented: “Today’s announcement represents an important landmark in the transition of Reaction Engines from a company that has been focused on the research and testing of enabling technologies for the SABRE engine to one that is now focused on the development and testing of the world’s first SABRE engine.

“BAE Systems brings industry leading capabilities in programme delivery and wider engineering systems integration that will accelerate the development of SABRE as a new engine class and its vehicle applications.

“This partnership builds on the outstanding technical breakthroughs that Reaction Engines has made and the positive assessments received on the potential of the technology from experts at the European Space Agency and the United States’ Air Force Research Laboratory (‘AFRL’).”

Diagram of heat flow for the new aerospace grade SABRE engine.
Diagram of heat flow for the new aerospace grade SABRE engine.

Nigel Whitehead, group managing director, programmes & support, BAE Systems said:“Reaction Engines is a highly innovative UK company and our collaboration gives BAE Systems a strategic interest in a breakthrough air and space technology with significant future potential.

“Our partnership with Reaction Engines is part of our sustained commitment to investing in and developing prospective emerging technologies. BAE Systems’ considerable engineering and development expertise will help support the delivery of the first demonstrator for the SABRE engine.”