The Reaction Engines team are celebrating the installation and current commissioning of a new state-of-the-art high vacuum furnace at Culham Science Centre, Oxfordshire.
Reaction Engines Ltd. have begun their latest round of rocket engine testing in Westcott, UK.
The SABRE engine requires a novel design of the rocket engine’s thrust chamber and nozzle to allow operation in both air-breathing and rocket modes, as well as a smooth transition between the two. The Advanced Nozzle project is demonstrating the feasibility of this concept and represents a significant technology development effort towards the SABRE demonstrator engine.
The test engine, which has been successfully fired 15 times during its initial commissioning phase in spring 2015, incorporates several new technologies including a 3D printed, actively cooled propellant injector system. Aerodynamic data collected from the firings is being used to validate in-house computational modelling and advance the nozzle design. The test campaign is being operated by Airborne Engineering Ltd in Westcott, Buckinghamshire. Operations are planned to continue throughout 2015, including long duration burns and tests investigating the transition between air- breathing and rocket operation planned for later in the year.
Dr Helen Webber, Reaction Engines’ Project Lead for the Advanced Nozzle Programme, commented: “This experimental engine is an important step into a new era of propulsion and space access. We are using it to test the aerodynamics and performance of the advanced nozzles that the SABRE engine will use, in addition to new manufacturing technologies such as our 3D-printed injection system.
The testing of new propulsion technology has required close work with our partners at Airborne Engineering, in order to make a test rig that can simulate the unique and demanding range of conditions required to put this engine through its paces. Despite being much smaller than SABRE, this engine is still the largest bi-propellant engine to be tested at Westcott for over thirty years, and it is exciting to see the resurgence of Westcott as the centre for UK rocket propulsion research and development. The next few months will see us running the engine for much longer periods in order to explore the transition between the air-breathing and rocket modes of the SABRE’s flight - an important and challenging part of powering Skylon into space.”
This week, the Reaction Engines team welcomed Mark Thomas as the new Managing Director.
Alan Bond said: “We felt very lucky that Mark was able to accept the role of MD, bringing all of the skills needed to take the SABRE concept through to engine development. This will be a challenging task, requiring a great deal of experience in the problems of Aerospace engines. Mark is the right guy for the job”.
Mark Thomas commented:
“I am absolutely delighted to be here. I thoroughly enjoyed my 25 years with Rolls-Royce; it was a privilege to be a Chief Engineer in both Defence and Civil Aerospace, but it was time for a new personal challenge. The role of MD at Reaction Engines Limited presented a truly unique and exciting opportunity - something not to be missed! The REL employees have been very welcoming in these first few days.
It’s obvious that we have a strong team spirit here with a huge amount of creative energy and talent. This is a credit to Alan Bond and those that have worked with him to build this Company from very humble origins to its current position on the world stage, with the loyal support of our investors. My role is to take the Company forward through the development phase of the SABRE programme, and to ensure that my skills and experience are used to maximise the opportunities for the long term commercial success of the business. I believe REL has amazing potential and this is now becoming recognised by Industry and Government. We are dealing with novel concepts and advanced technologies, so no doubt there will be challenges, but I go forward with positive intent and genuine enthusiasm for the task ahead.
My thanks go to everyone for their warm welcome and continuing support, and especially to Tom Scrope, whose time and effort as interim MD has kept the company on an even footing through a complex transition.”
On Monday 27th January, the Reaction Engines team welcomed representatives from DLR, hosted by David Willetts MP and David Parker, CEO of the UK Space Agency. The visit included a tour of Reaction Engines' manufacturing facilities and a live demonstration of the pre-cooler in full cryogenic operation at the test facility in Culham, Oxfordshire.
Tom Scrope was appointed to the position of Finance Director earlier this month. The REL team welcomes him and wishes him the best of success in his new role. More info about Tom is available in the Management section.
Reaction Engines Ltd is pleased to announce that it has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement ('CRADA') with the Air Force Research Laboratory's Aerospace Systems Directorate (AFRL/RQ).
The CRADA provides a framework to assess the performance, applications and development paths for REL's SABRE air-breathing rocket engine, a new class of aerospace engine designed for low cost, responsive space access and high speed atmospheric flight. This CRADA is the first U.S. government formal relationship with Reaction Engines Ltd and will be used to inform U.S. government stakeholders about the SABRE engine's potential for hypersonic vehicle applications.
Alan Bond, Managing Director commented - "The signing of this agreement with AFRL builds on an extraordinary period for Reaction Engines Ltd which has seen the successful demonstration of SABRE's ultra-lightweight high performance heat exchanger technology and a UK Government commitment of £60m ($100m) towards the next phase of development of the SABRE engine."
AFRL/RQ project manager Barry Hellman stated that "This CRADA opens the door for joint development and testing to help AFRL understand the SABRE engine's technical details, and whether it may offer unique performance and vehicle integration advantages when compared to traditional hypersonic vehicle concepts. We look forward to exploring the engine and its lightweight heat exchangers which have the potential to enable hypersonic air-breathing rocket propulsion."
Mark Hempsell, Reaction Engines Ltd Future Programmes Director, has resigned from the Board of Directors in order to pursue a new venture which specialises in the development of space infrastructure. We are grateful that he has agreed to continue his work on the SKYLON project as an external consultant, which will ensure his knowledge and expertise are retained by the project. Roger Longstaff, who has over 30 years experience working on space transportation systems, including HOTOL, the X33 and SKYLON, will assume the position of SKYLON project manager in early 2014.
Reaction Engines Ltd have signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for a €1 million study into the next European Launch System. The "Skylon-based European Launch Service Operator" contract has been finalised by the Launcher Directorate of the European Space Agency in Paris, France and work has started to study how the SKYLON spaceplane can meet Europe's Space access demands in terms of cost, flexibility and responsiveness, from the early 2020's.
Through the UK Space Agency, the Government is set to invest £60 million in the development of the SABRE - a British-designed rocket engine which could revolutionise the fields of propulsion and launcher technology, and significantly reduce the costs of accessing space.
SABRE has the potential to create 21,000 high value engineering and manufacturing jobs; maximise the UK's access to a conservatively estimated £13.8 billion launcher market over the next thirty years; and provide economic benefits from spill-over technology markets.