Sabre hybrid engine promises to fly you anywhere in 4 hours

first_imgIn order to cut the traveling time on long haul flights we can either go faster or travel higher in the atmosphere. Both solutions present quite difficult problems to overcome, though.Going faster means using engines capable of breaking the sound barrier. We have those, but they create sonic booms (very loud claps in the air) that would not be acceptable once you added them to all aircraft and heard them regularly throughout the day and night. NASA may be getting closer to solving that problem, but no solution is in place yet.Traveling higher, literally at the edge of space, is something Virgin Galactic is currently focused on doing, but it requires two vehicles to achieve it. The first is a typical plane design that gets a smaller craft into the air and flying at a decent speeds and height before decoupling and using rockets for power. It works, but isn’t ideal.The ultimate solution would be a plane that can take off and land like a normal aircraft, but be capable of traveling in orbit. This so-called spaceplane is in development, and it’s all thanks to a new engine called the Sabre.Reaction Engines Limited is the UK company behind the Sabre engine being developed for use in the Skylon spaceplane. It is unique because it takes the form of a hybrid and can function as both an air-breathing engine and a conventional rocket. It also promises to let us travel at 5x the speed of sound.By combining the two types of engine, the Skylon can take off and land like a normal aircraft, but ascend into orbit where it switches over to rocket power and cuts travel time drastically. In fact, the Skylon and Sabre combination promises to take you anywhere in the world in no more than 4 hours.The clever thinking behind the Sabre engine is its use of oxygen and hydrogen as a fuel source. At lower altitude the oxygen required is taken from the atmosphere, but in space it switches over to a rocket mode.Reaction is currently testing the Sabre to ensure its cooling system works as it will have to deal with over 1,000 degree temperatures. If the tests prove successful, then it is hoped investment can be attracted to the tune of $400 million allowing the final Sabre engine to be designed.With the prospect of making long haul flights a thing of the past, I’m sure more than a few aviation companies will be very interested in investing.Read more at BBC News and Reaction Engineslast_img

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