A revolutionary air-breathing rocket engine capable of hitting more than 2,500 mph just passed a major milestone

Reaction Engines
  • Reactor Engines, a British aerospace company, said it had successfully tested a rocket engine that could eventually allow for supersonic flight to space.
  • The company says its engine can cool air from 420 degrees Celsius to room temperature in less than a second.
  • Traditionally, rockets have to carry massive tanks of fuel to burn, adding to their weight and aerodynamic profile.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

A British company developing a rocket engine that can combust using oxygen from the air, as opposed to carrying liquid oxygen like traditional rockets, said on Monday that it had passed a “significant milestone” for supersonic flight.

Reaction Engines’ Sabre engine, along with technology that it says can cool air from 420 degrees Celsius to room temperature in one-twentieth of a second, could allow space-going ships to look more like aeroplanes than traditional fuel-laden rockets with their ballooning storage tanks.

Reaction EnginesReaction EnginesReaction Engines’ Sabre engine.

“This is a hugely significant milestone which has seen Reaction Engines’ proprietary precooler technology achieve unparalleled heat transfer performance,” Mark Thomas, the company’s CEO, said in a press release.

“The HTX test article met all test objectives, and the successful initial tests highlight how our precooler delivers world-leading heat transfer capabilities at low weight and compact size. This provides an important validation of our heat exchanger and thermal management technology portfolio which has application across emerging areas such as very high-speed flight, hybrid electric aviation, and integrated vehicle thermal management.”

The time milestone reached in testing is equivalent to flight speeds of Mach 3.3, or more than 2,500 mph, the company said. That’s roughly the speed of the famous SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and faster than the Concorde supersonic passenger jet.

Reaction Engines’ milestone is the result of about 30 years of work by the company’s founders, Alan Bond, Richard Varvill, and John Scott-Scott, the Financial Times reported. The company has raised nearly $US100 million from backers including Boeing’s HorizonX, Rolls-Royce, the Scottish tech investment firm Baillie Gifford, and the UK government, according to PitchBook data.

More testing is set to take place this year in the UK.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.