01 Nov 2019

Reaction Engines precooler test hits Mach 5

Reaction Engines has successfully tested its innovative precooler at airflow temperature conditions representing Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

This marks a significant milestone in the development of the UK-designed SABRE™ engine and paves the way for a revolution in hypersonic flight and space access.

The precooler heat exchanger is a vital component of Reaction Engines’ revolutionary SABRE air-breathing rocket engine and is an enabling technology for other pre-cooled propulsion systems and a range of commercial applications.

The UK government committed £60 million through the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency to aid preparations for the design, manufacture and testing of SABRE demonstrator engines. This has led to further private investment from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Boeing HorizonX.

This ground-based test achieved the highest temperature objective of the company’s HTX testing programme and took place at its specially constructed facility at the Colorado Air and Space Port, United States.

During the latest series of tests, Reaction Engines’ precooler successfully quenched airflow temperatures in excess of 1,000°C in less than 1/20th of a second. The tests demonstrated the precooler’s ability to successfully cool airflow at speeds significantly in excess of the operational limit of any jet-engine powered aircraft in history.

Reaction Engines’ patented precooler heat exchanger has the potential to be used in a wide range of commercial thermal management applications. These include the development of precooled systems that would significantly enhance the performance of existing jet engine technology, along with applications in automotive, aerospace, energy and industrial processes.

Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “The SABRE engine is one of the UK’s most exciting engineering projects which could change forever how we launch satellites into orbit and travel across the world.

“It’s fantastic to see Reaction Engines passing this significant milestone, which demonstrates how its precooler technology can deal with the extreme temperatures associated with travelling at five times the speed of sound.

“The government has invested £60 million in SABRE and is committed to taking a more strategic approach to space, developing our national capabilities to complement and expand on the UK’s leading role in the European Space Agency once we leave the EU.”

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