Reaction Engines announces European collaboration to investigate the impact of air-breathing propulsion systems on future space launch architectures


Thu, 2019-06-27 12:00


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Reaction Engines is delighted to announce a collaboration with the French Space Agency, the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the UK Space Agency to work together on a joint study to investigate the impact of air-breathing propulsion systems on future space launch architectures.  ONERA the French Aerospace Lab has been also associated to this study.

The study, carried out under the 2011 Framework Agreement for Reinforced Cooperation in Space Activities put in place between CNES and the UK Space Agency, commenced in 2018 and is due to complete towards the end of this year. An initial presentation of the assessment will be provided at the 2019 EUCASS Conference taking place in Madrid in July 2019. 

Reaction Engines has heritage in studying air-breathing launch systems and is developing, in partnership with the UK Space Agency, a new high speed combined cycle air-breathing propulsion technology (SABRE) that will enhance the performance of future air-breathing launch systems. CNES has a long and successful history of researching and developing the Ariane launcher family including the currently operational Ariane 5 version and  together all parties have a mutual interest in future space launch technologies and understanding the impact of using air-breathing propulsion systems.

SABRE propulsion technology has the potential to facilitate the development of a horizontally launched vehicle that is affordable, reliable and reusable and has high cadence and payload return options.  The objective of this joint study is to assess and quantify the potential advantages and benefits of air-breathing propulsion technology for future European launch architectures.

The study is framed around a Two-Stage-to-Orbit (TSTO) concept launch from Kourou Space Centre in French Guyana, South America.

The first stage of this system employs SABRE propulsion on a horizontally launched and recoverable winged vehicle. The second stage employs conventional rocket propulsion and is designed to be expendable.

The study includes:

  • An assessment of mission requirements
  • Definition and assessment of a candidate vehicle architectures that utilise a SABRE propulsion system
  • A complete analysis of the performance of the system through a mission profile and life
  • Economic assessment of the launch system and consideration around a roadmap and next steps.

For further information on this study please contact enquiries@reactionengines.co.uk