Reaction Engines secures more development funding

Skylon air-spacecraft with SABRE engine. Image courtesy of Reaction Engines.
Skylon air-spacecraft with SABRE engine. Image courtesy of Reaction Engines.

UK-based aerospace startup Reaction Engines has been awarded further funding from European and UK space agencies.

According to reporting by Financial Times, the company received €10m ($11m) in funding from the European Space Agency (ESA) to continue the development of its SABRE engine.

This sum would then unlock a further £50m ($66.3m) in funding from the UK’s own space agency.

Reaction Engines, now partially owned by UK defense company BAE Systems, is promising a revolutionary new approach to orbital space launch.

Using a new engine design, which it calls SABRE (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine), the company believes it can build a single-state-to-orbit (SSTO) spacecraft which is significantly more efficient than traditional rockets.

SABRE is unique in that it functions as a hypersonic jet engine while in the atmosphere, before switching to rocket propulsion at higher altitudes.

Based off research undertaken by the British military in 1980s, the engine design is ideal for spaceplanes and hypersonic jets.

The entire rocket it will be built into, called Skylon, will take off and land on a runway in a breakthrough approach to reusability.

Nonetheless, the engines alone are only in a developmental stage and considerable hurdles still need to be overcome.

With this new funding the company will be able to build a ground-based demonstration model of the engine, something it hopes to have completed by 2019. From there, integration and testing of the Skylon spacecraft would not begin until the 2020s.

US subsidiary established

Beyond this new funding, the company has also announced that it will set up a new subsidiary in the US.

The purpose of this subsidiary will likely be to help Reaction Engines establish contacts within the large US space launch market, as well as to secure sources of additional future funding.

“The establishment of a US office is the obvious next step for us, building on excellent work done under a collaborative R&D agreement with future export markets in mind,” said Mark Thomas, CEO of Reaction Engines.

The subsidiary will be lead by Dr. Adam Dissel, formerly of Lockheed Martin Space Systems.