UK and Australia space agencies are developing a hypersonic 'space plane'

Humza

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

By 2030, hypersonic flights could potentially let people travel from the UK to New York in an hour or reach Australia in four hours. That's the ambition set by the UK and Australia's space agencies as they recently signed up on a 'space bridge' agreement to collaborate and advance in the space industry.

The development took place at this year's UK Space Conference held in Wales. "A space bridge agreement will bring significant benefits to both our thriving space industries, facilitating new trade and investment opportunities and the exchange of knowledge and ideas," commented Dr Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency. "It was a pleasure to welcome the Australian Space Agency to the UK Space Conference 2019 and to set out our intent to increase collaboration," he added.

Part of this collaboration involves working on a new hypersonic aircraft powered by UK's Reaction Engines Ltd. The Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) currently undergoing development at the company is said to have the fuel efficiency of a jet engine combined with the power and high-speed ability of a rocket.

"When we have brought the SABRE rocket engine to fruition, that may enable us to get to Australia in perhaps as little as four hours," said Dr Graham, adding that "This is technology that could definitely deliver that. We're talking the 2030s for operational service, and the work is already very advanced."

Reaction Engines also ran successful tests of a precooler in April this year, in which it simulated conditions at Mach 3.3 (more than three times the speed of sound). These simulations were conducted at a testing facility in the Colorado Air and Space Port in the US.

The precooler was tested to ensure that extremely hot temperatures caused by high-speed air-flow through the engine wouldn't damage any components. The company said that the precooler was able to cool gases over 1,000 °C to ambient temperature in less than 1/20th of a second. "This is a hugely significant milestone which has seen Reaction Engines' proprietary precooler technology achieve unparalleled heat transfer performance," said Mark Thomas, CEO of Reaction Engines.

The company's program director Shaun Driscoll said that the Sabre engine was like a hybrid of a rocket engine and an aero engine as it allowed a rocket to breathe air. "Rockets really haven't progressed in 70 years, whereas aero engines have become very efficient, so if you can combine an aero engine and a rocket you can have a very lightweight efficient propulsion system and basically create a space plane," he said.

With over £100 million ($130 million) in funding over the past four years, Reaction Engines has garnered interest of many big names in the industry including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Boeing.

A testing facility at Buckinghamshire, UK, is being finalized for construction that will serve as the location for the first ground-based demonstration of a SABRE engine air-breathing core.

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mbrowne5061

TS Evangelist
Another Concord waiting to be shelved the moment the cost overruns go too high or the subsidies dry up. They'll never learn.
The concord probably would have been commercially viable, had Boeing not gotten in its way.

Way back in the day, when the Concord was just starting to look like it would hit the commercial market, Boeing began lobbying the US govt. to ban commercial supersonic flight over the continental United States. This was because Boeing own attempts at making a commercial supersonic passenger could not get off the ground - literally or metaphorically. At the time, there was little reason to go east from France or the UK at supersonic speeds, so getting locked out of the United States effectively killed it by keeping it from flying a lot of really lucrative routes.

Everyone kept hoping the US govt would eventually change their mind [Boeing would develop their own supersonic passenger aircraft], but that never happened, so the Concord died.

Now, this plane might be able to get by on a technicality. The law banning supersonic flight references the 'boom', not the speed itself. by flying at such high altitude, there likely won't be a sonic boom that is detectable on the ground. If they can keep this plane at sub- and trans-sonic speeds during takeoff and landing, and hold off going supersonic until they are at a high enough altitude, they may be just fine.
 

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
M&O are always the killer on most of these big projects ... they fail to plan for them and run the necessary feasibility studies to make sure it is and will remain profitable; also, the lifespan of the craft will be a BIG factor with those speeds vibration, friction, etc. put an abnormal amount of wear and tear on the craft, ie: just look how many times they are able to successfully use a Space-X booster rocket.

I'd love to see it happen, but it's got a long road ahead of it and just one fatality accident and it could easily join the Concord in the museum of "used to be"'s .....
 

GeforcerFX

TS Evangelist
Another Concord waiting to be shelved the moment the cost overruns go too high or the subsidies dry up. They'll never learn.
The concord probably would have been commercially viable, had Boeing not gotten in its way.

Way back in the day, when the Concord was just starting to look like it would hit the commercial market, Boeing began lobbying the US govt. to ban commercial supersonic flight over the continental United States. This was because Boeing own attempts at making a commercial supersonic passenger could not get off the ground - literally or metaphorically. At the time, there was little reason to go east from France or the UK at supersonic speeds, so getting locked out of the United States effectively killed it by keeping it from flying a lot of really lucrative routes.

Everyone kept hoping the US govt would eventually change their mind [Boeing would develop their own supersonic passenger aircraft], but that never happened, so the Concord died.

Now, this plane might be able to get by on a technicality. The law banning supersonic flight references the 'boom', not the speed itself. by flying at such high altitude, there likely won't be a sonic boom that is detectable on the ground. If they can keep this plane at sub- and trans-sonic speeds during takeoff and landing, and hold off going supersonic until they are at a high enough altitude, they may be just fine.
Boeing didn't really have to lobby much, the USAF did testing over the midwest with supersonic aircraft to see the level of disturbance it caused and the results were not good for the supersonic transports, this is part of what killed Boeing's own SST. Even today anytime a F-15 goes supersonic on a scramble there's panic calls to 911 and the local news has to put out an article explaining the sound to people (Seattle in 2009 2012 was like this)



Seems like in the last few years the saber engine is focusing less on SSO and more on hypersonic transport market. Will also be interesting if these guys are planning for testing to begin in the late 2020's early 2030s and Spacex wants to do atmospheric hops with Starship by 2024-2026 if they will even continue with that competition being there.
 
I remember reading about this about 9 years ago, I guess things take time from theory to actual model testing.
I mean that's generally their "story", but it's simply not true. Prototyping parts and effectiveness is faster than it's ever been in history - because we have computers. We can design and test before any building occurs, and solve most of the problems along the way. Simulation software has been able to handle this for decades but it's gotten far, far better.

Case in point: automobiles. Every year, every company offers something new that's been prototyped and tested (fairly) rigorously.

So I agree with Psycros. This is yet another vaporware money-pit "black hole" project, designed to pump millions into the pockets of the aerospace moguls, who are of course owned by the same banksters that own every other major corporation in the world.
 
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OortCloud

TS Maniac
The usual set of negative responses from people who literally no idea about the subject but pontificate like they are world-renowned experts...
 
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Ravey

TS Addict
Another Concord waiting to be shelved the moment the cost overruns go too high or the subsidies dry up. They'll never learn.
The concord probably would have been commercially viable, had Boeing not gotten in its way.

Way back in the day, when the Concord was just starting to look like it would hit the commercial market, Boeing began lobbying the US govt. to ban commercial supersonic flight over the continental United States. This was because Boeing own attempts at making a commercial supersonic passenger could not get off the ground - literally or metaphorically. At the time, there was little reason to go east from France or the UK at supersonic speeds, so getting locked out of the United States effectively killed it by keeping it from flying a lot of really lucrative routes.

Everyone kept hoping the US govt would eventually change their mind [Boeing would develop their own supersonic passenger aircraft], but that never happened, so the Concord died.

Now, this plane might be able to get by on a technicality. The law banning supersonic flight references the 'boom', not the speed itself. by flying at such high altitude, there likely won't be a sonic boom that is detectable on the ground. If they can keep this plane at sub- and trans-sonic speeds during takeoff and landing, and hold off going supersonic until they are at a high enough altitude, they may be just fine.
There was a related article that I read to this where they are also testing some kind of a "boom" suppression system that will reduce the noise of a supersonic engine.

But there still isn't much point in getting too excited as this will mainly be a form of travel for the elite 1% of the population and business user. (Maybe I'm sounding a little too bitter there lol)
 
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grumblguts

TS Addict
Another Concord waiting to be shelved the moment the cost overruns go too high or the subsidies dry up. They'll never learn.
Concord was a success . there are people willing to spend the extra to get to their destination in a fraction of the time. so they did learn because there is a market for it.
 
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Markoni35

TS Addict
Boeing didn't really have to lobby much, the USAF did testing over the midwest with supersonic aircraft to see the level of disturbance it caused and the results were not good for the supersonic transports, this is part of what killed Boeing's own SST. Even today anytime a F-15 goes supersonic on a scramble there's panic calls to 911 and the local news has to put out an article explaining the sound to people (Seattle in 2009 2012 was like this)
Actually there existed very noticeable jealousy against European manufacturers, because they have achieved something that Boeing couldn't at that time. The ban was caused by that, not by "panic among population". Because if the sound was so horrible, how did it fly without problems in Europe, which is much more densely packed than US? Europe has almost zero deserts, while US has tons of deserts and sparsely populated areas where the sonic boom wouldn't cause any problems.

This is very similar to the 5G story, which just 2 months ago was about to "cause serious health problems and even weather forecast misses" while only Huawei had 5G. Now that other producers have 5G the story is different. Suddelly 5G will save us all.

Not to mention false Toyota malfunction, as soon as Toyota sales reached #1 in the US. And after inspecting millions of cars, none of them had a malfunction.

Or the Volkswagen gas emissions, which is something everyone does. Every producer of diesel cars does that. And still, only the one which came too close to #1 was punished. It's always a political game. Never related to science or safety.