British engineers are ready to build and test a super jet engine that could power aircraft around the world in just a few hours at up to 4,000 mph.
The jet would fly at double the speed of Concorde, the world’s fastest ever passenger aircraft.
If the dream moves off the design table to reality, the journey time from London to Sydney would shrink from 24 hours to around four hours.
Britain’s largest aero engineering firm BAE Systems has taken a 20% slice for £20 million of Reaction Engines, the company that has come up with the design.
The British government is also offering the firm £60 million in grants towards research and development to help get the project off the ground.
SABRE: Cutting edge technology
The plan is to power airliners at five times the speed of sound – but the engine can hurtle on at speeds of up to 19,000 mph, which is fast enough for low-space travel to deliver astronauts and equipment to Earth orbiting space stations.
The super-fast jet engine could also spark a new generation of military stealth bombers.
Dubbed SABRE – the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine – the project is heading for take-off as the next major air travel milestone.
“Reaction Engines has developed what could be an air and space technology leap forward that BAE wants to help get up and running with our considerable engineering knowledge and resources,” said Nigel Whitehead, group managing director at BAE Systems.
How SABRE works
SABRE turns conventional air and space travel engineering around by creating fuel in flight by sucking in and super cooling air.
This does away with the need for spacecraft to launch with heavy fuel tanks and makes aircraft and low-orbit space ships smaller, leaner and lighter to build, fly and maintain.
The engine converts air to hydrogen by fast cooling air from up to 1,000 centigrade to -150 centigrade in a fraction of a second.
The European Space Agency has tested the theory and has decreed the SABRE technology should work as planned.
The next stage is to build and fire a working engine, which is what Reaction Engines plan with the help of BAE Systems and government funding.