Space Access: SKYLON

To demonstrate the application of SABRE engines to space access,
REL has designed SKYLON, the first vehicle designed to be powered by SABRE engines.

SKYLON cutaway to show the SABRE engine


SKYLON is an unpiloted, reusable spaceplane intended to provide reliable, responsive and cost effective access to space. Currently in early development phase, the vehicle will be capable of transporting 15 tonnes of cargo into space. It is the use of SABRE's combined air-breathing and rocket cycles that enables a vehicle that can take off from a runway, fly direct to earth orbit and return for a runway landing, just like an aircraft.

SKYLON will provide aircraft-like access to space to enable:

  • Operation from runway to orbit and back
  • Order of magnitude reduction in cost vs. existing technology
  • 400 x improved reliability
  • Responsive access to space

The European Space Agency assessment concluded that:

"...the SKYLON vehicle can be realised given today's current technology and successful engine development."

European Space Agency Report, 2011

Because SKYLON is reusable (unlike current single-use space launchers) it can be purchased by companies and nations that want space access in a manner similar to current civil aircraft. As with aircraft, purchasing a vehicle will provide a much more cost effective option than trying to develop an independent launcher system.

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