Hypersonic Spaceplane That Could Fly From Australia To The UK In Four Hours Achieves Testing Breakthrough

A hypersonic spaceplane that flies 25 times faster than the speed of sound has achieved a testing breakthrough.

The project, backed by Boeing and Rolls-Royce in 2018, is led by Oxford-based Reaction Engines Limited working alongside both the European and UK Space Agencies and BAE systems to bring the concept to life.

The resulting hypersonic spaceplane, which should be able to fly at Mach 25, could transport passengers from Australia to the UK in four hours, or from New York to London, or Sydney to Bali in under an hour.

Reaction Engines has recently been testing a ‘pre-cooler’ for their experimental Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) engine, which is designed to be fitted, eventually, to large aircraft.

Critical to Sabre’s development, the pre-cooling module is required to stop the engine from melting by lowering the temperature of compressed air in the engine from more than 1,000 degrees Celsius to room temperature in one-twentieth of a second.

Until now, heat has been a limiting factor for how fast aircraft can travel, including the Concorde, which travelled at twice the speed of sound.

Reaction built a testing facility in Colorado and used a General Electric J79 turbojet engine to replicate the conditions that the vehicle will experience at hypersonic speeds, successfully testing the technology at simulated speeds of Mach 3.3, bringing it another step closer to the desired output of Mach 25.

Hypersonic Spaceplane Engine

While Reaction confirmed we could be decades away from seeing the engine on passenger jets, the cooling technology could be used in more immediate applications across a range of industries; from aerospace to motorsport, industrial processes, and the oil and gas industry. 

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