The world just got closer to a ‘hypersonic space plane’ that will revolutionise ‘the economics of space’

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Reaction Engines, one of the brightest prospects in European space plane technology, has big news this morning. 

BAE Systems, the globetrotting defence and aeronautics giant, just bought 20% of the firm, and it’s making a major investment in Reaction Engines’ most promising ideas.

The idea is an unpiloted, reusable hypersonic space plane. It’s called SABRE. Here’s how the company itself describes it:

A new aerospace engine class that combines both jet and rocket technologies with the potential to revolutionise hypersonic flight and the economics of space access… 

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. 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’ technology has undergone extensive independent technical assessments which have confirmed its viability and potential vehicle applications.

According to a press release from Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines, BAE has bought 20% of the company and invest £20.6 million ($US31.79 million). The company is expecting another £60 million ($US92.60 million) in the form of a government grant.

Here’s what the firm says they’re getting from BAE: 

The working partnership will draw on BAE Systems’ extensive aerospace technology development and project management expertise and will provide Reaction Engines with access to critical industrial, technical and capital resources to progress towards the demonstration of a ground based engine — a key milestone in the development of the technology.

According to the FT, David Parker, head of the UK Space Agency called it “a vote of confidence in the technology.”

If it all sounds cool, that’s because it is. Take a look at what they’re hoping it can do:

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