New engine testing facility for space planes

A facility in Buckinghamshire has been opened to create a new type of engine that could reduce the flight time from London to the US to below two hours.

BAE and Reaction Engines announce partnership for the development of SABRE aerospace engine.
The new engine will allow hypersonic travel on passenger jets.

Reaction Engines has begun construction on a new engine test facility where it plans to undertake the first demonstration of its new hypersonic rocket engine, SABRE. The facility is located in Westcott, Buckinghamshire and full testing is scheduled to commence in 2020.

The project consists of a multi-purpose propulsion test stand that is designed to work with a variety of test engine configurations, an assembly building, control room and workshops. The facility will enable configuration changes to take place on site, reduce the downtime between each testing phase and speed up the development programme of the engine.

Mark Thomas, CEO, Reaction Engines said: “This is another exciting step forward in development of Reaction Engines’ SABRE engine and a visible demonstration of the UK’s commitment to the programme.  I look forward to seeing this unique facility take shape and commencing our core engine testing, which will be a defining moment for aerospace.”

Franco Ongaro, Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality, European Space Agency, who was visiting the site said: “The opening of this new test facility at Westcott, marks an historical moment for the European Aerospace industry and for the UK research and development in rocket propulsion. This facility will enable the ground test of the SABRE engine cycle, opening the way to the first flight tests, and to a new era.

“The European Space Agency is proud of this partnership with industry and the UK Space Agency, to which we bring our technical competence, which has supported the SABRE development to this stage, and we are confident, to its future flight success.”

The company has already successfully undertaken testing of the engine’s pre-cooler and thrust chamber technologies, and will undertake further ground-based high-temperature testing of the pre-cooler early in 2018.

Westcott Venture Park is a location with a strong history of rocket propulsion research. In 2016 the UK Space Agency selected Westcott as the UK’s National Space Propulsion Test Facility and the site is now home to a number of space propulsion and satellite technology companies.

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