Supplier Spotlight

Video Exclusives

VSS Unity spaceplane completes second test flight

Watch Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company's VSS Unity complete its second successful, supersonic, rocket powered test flight to an altitude of 114,500ft and a speed of Mach 1.9.

Click here to watch video

06 June, 2018

Space Launch System - in numbers

Discover how engineers are outfitting the world’s most powerful rocket with sensors, cables and other equipment in this 2:40 video.

Click here to watch video

15 May, 2018

Blue Origin launches and lands New Shepard rocket

Watch Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space tourism company Blue Origin successfully launch and land a used rocket and capsule.

Click here to watch video

02 May, 2018


To watch more videos, click here

At what speed does an aircraft's speed become hypersonic?


Air-breathing rocket engine development firm receives US$38m boost

 Skylo aircraft


UK-based aerospace company Reaction Engines has secured a £26.5m (US$38m) investment to fund the further development of its synergetic air-breathing rocket engine SABRE.


The latest investors in the project include Boeing, through its HorizonX Ventures investment arm, and aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce. Existing industrial backers of Reaction Engines include defense and aerospace company BAE Systems, which invested £20.6m (US$29.5m) in 2015.


The latest round of funding brings the total invested in Reaction Engines to almost £100m (US$143m) over the last three years. This includes £60m (US$86m) of funding from the UK government and the European Space Agency (ESA).


SABRE is initially being developed for use on Reaction’s Skylon aircraft, which is being designed to travel directly into Earth orbit, for cheaper and more reliable access to space.


The engine’s main innovation is its pre-cooler, which is designed to continuously cool an incoming airstream from more than 1,000°C to –150°C in less than 1/100th second. The pre-cooler is made from Inconel 718 and uses tubes arranged in an involute spiral inside a cylindrical drum to increase its heat transfer capabilities. 


Sabre’s air-breathing characteristics mean that from take-off to Mach 5, Skylon will be able to operate as a jet aircraft, until at an altitude of approximately 15 miles it switches to run as a rocket fueled by liquid oxygen.


By reducing the amount of time operating as a rocket and switching in the upper atmosphere, the amount of liquid oxygen fuel the engine needs is reduced, which improves the aircraft’s cost effectiveness, reusability and commercial viability.


Reaction Engines said that it is on track to start ground-based testing of a SABRE engine core in 2020 and is currently constructing a new facility in Westcott, Buckinghamshire, UK, for SABRE testing.


The funds will also be used to accelerate Reaction Engines’ commercialization plans for its heat exchanger technology, for which it says there are opportunities in motorsport, electric vehicle thermal management, waste heat recuperation, small satellite cooling and aero-engines. 


Mark Thomas, CEO of Reaction Engines, said, “This is a significant milestone and I am delighted to welcome our new strategic and financial shareholders. These new partners bring invaluable expertise in both hypersonics and engine technologies with significant access to target markets. 


“This is not only a vote of confidence in our technology but also underlines belief in our ability to develop a thriving commercial business which will provide strong financial returns for our shareholders.” 


Paul Stein, chief technology officer, Rolls-Royce, said, “We are delighted to become a strategic investor and look forward to working with Reaction Engines Limited and assisting with the development of their technology. We plan to incorporate this technology into our own future products.” 


Steve Nordlund, vice president of Boeing HorizonX, said, “Our investment in Reaction Engines is our first in a UK-based company. As Reaction Engines unlocks advanced propulsion that could change the future of air and space travel, we expect to leverage their revolutionary technology to support Boeing’s pursuit of hypersonic flight.” 


Reaction Engines also recently secured a contract from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to conduct high-temperature airflow testing of its pre-cooler heat exchanger.


April 16, 2018


Written by Ben Sampson


Your email address:

Read Latest Issue

Read Latest Issue

Web Exclusives

Marine Dumont, business development manager, Kistler Instruments outlines how innovation in dynamometers is enabling clearer images of Earth from satellites 
Click here to read more

Steve Drake, NDT market manager for Ashtead Technologies, describes how the rapid deployment of the latest borescope equipment to Africa helped a business aviation operator make tough decisions about a grounded aircraft 
Click here to read more

Hardware-in-the-loop systems have helped to reduce flight testing of Saab's latest fighter jet, writes National Instruments in this case study
Click here to read more

An experiment is set to be launched from the International Space Station this month which turns the normal approach to space on its head – instead of putting things into space, this experiment aims to test ways to take things out of space. 
Click here to read more

Ergonomics and human factors is vital in aircraft but can be overlooked during testing and development. Here Nick discusses the latest trends and developments in cockpit design and testing.
Click here to read more

Supplier Spotlight

Supplier SpotlightClick here for listings and information on leading suppliers covering all aspects of the aerospace testing industry. Want to see your company included? Contact for more details.

Submit your industry opinion

Industry BlogDo you have an opinion you'd like to share with the aerospace testing community? Good or bad, we'd like to hear your views and opinions on the leading issues shaping the industry. Share your comments by sending up to 500 words to

Submit Your Recruitment Ad

Recruitment AdTo send us your recruitment advertising or to receive information on placing a banner please email