09 May 2017

Ground broken on new SABRE rocket engine test site

Work is underway on the construction of a new rocket engine test facility at Westcott Venture Park in the UK.

The facility will fire the engine core of the European Space Agency-backed Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) propulsion system within the next three years.

The SABRE scoops up atmospheric air during the early stage of its flight to orbit. This dramatically cuts the need for the vehicle to carry bulky onboard oxygen for this part of the ascent, before switching to rocket mode drawing on internal propellants for its final climb to space.

The ESA said that the engine has the potential to revolutionise space launches, powering vehicles that can take off and land like aircraft.

The engine is capable of travelling up to five times the speed of sound, potentially leading to hypersonic air travel.

Reaction Engines Ltd has been working on the engine for a number of years, with ESA playing an integral technical management role since 2008.

The site has a close association with rocket research over past 70 years, having seen engines for the Blue Streak and Black Arrow rockets tested there.

Franco Ongaro, ESA Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality said: “The opening of this new test facility marks an historic moment for the European aerospace industry and for the UK research and development in rocket propulsion.

“This facility enables the ground test of the engine cycle, opening the way to the first test flights, and to a new era.

“ESA is proud of this partnership with industry and the UK Space Agency, to which we bring our technical competence, which has supported the development to this stage, and we are confident, to its future flight success.”

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image © Reaction Engines Ltd

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