The British defense giant BAE Systems Pls plans to team with a smaller specialty propulsion company to develop a new hypersonic engine.
The London-based defense contractor on Monday announced it will invest about $32 million in Reaction Engines Ltd to acquire a 20 percent stake of the closely held British firm to develop a so-called advanced combined cycle air-breathing rocket engine class called Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine, or Sabre.
The engine will rely on both jet and rocket technologies to increase speeds, according to a press release from BAE. Here’s what it might look like:
“This new class of aerospace engine is designed to enable aircraft to operate from standstill on the runway to speeds of over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere,” it states. “SABRE can then transition to a rocket mode of operation, allowing spaceflight at speeds up to orbital velocity, equivalent to twenty five times the speed of sound.”
Reaction Engines is also poised to receive a $62 million grant from the British government to further develop the technology, the release states. With the fresh injection of capital, Reaction plans to hire more engineers as part of an effort to transition from research to developing and testing of the engine, it states.
A key element of Sabre are ultra-lightweight heat exchangers that allow the cooling of very hot airstreams from over 1,000 degrees Celsius to minus 150 degrees Celsius in less than a hundredth of a second while preventing the formation of ice at sub-zero temperatures, according to the release.
Here’s an infographic on the new propulsion system: