UK-based Reaction Engines is working on a new type of hypersonic engine that could make flights to Australia just a four-hour journey in the near future.
The Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) is part jet and part rocket, enabling intercontinental travel at five times the speed of sound. Reducing flight times from UK and Australia means that journeys will take 80% less time.
Experts believe that the engine capable of propelling aircraft to Mach 5.4 will be ready to be used in 10 years time. That wait might be a little longer for hypersonic jets to be used for commercial flights.
According to the Mirror, CEO of UK Space Agency Graham Turnock said at the UK Space Conference:
When we have brought the SABRE rocket engine to fruition, that may enable us to get to Australia in perhaps as little as four hours.
As well as being able to fly passengers around the world at record breaking speeds, the engine would also take be able to take vehicles into orbit.
SABRE uses atmospheric oxygen in its combustion cycle while in the atmosphere, with the engine switching to an on-board liquid oxygen supply. Doing this means that the rocket is able to make it into orbit in just a single stage. In rocket mode, the engine is capable of propelling its vehicle at Mach 25, going at 25 times the speed of sound to get into space.
“Breathing” air from the atmosphere allows for better fuel efficiency and a lower weight than existing rocket engines. That’s because current rockets need to carry their own oxygen supply.
In order for the concept to become a reality, it’s having to go through some rigorous testing. The main aim is to figure out how to reach these speeds without causing damage to the engine by overheating it.
The air-breathing rocket engine has already successfully passed a first phase of high-temperature testing, designed to figure out how well it manages high temperature airflows.
The Engine managed to successfully suppress a 420C stream of gases in less than one twentieth of a second, BBC News reports.
After these pre-cooler tests,the Sabre team are set to complete the design work before full-system testing in 2020. Sabre are claiming their engines are going to revolutionise the way we travel around the globe, and into orbit.
We really hope that the engine becomes a reality sooner rather than later. Ever since Concorde stopped flying in 2003, supersonic flight has effectively been ruled out for commercial passengers.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Matt Weston is a lover of electric cars, artificial intelligence and space. From Cornwall, he’s a UCLan graduate that still dreams of being a Formula One driver in the very near future. Previously work includes reporting for regional newspapers and freelance video for the International Business Times.