The last Concorde flight was in 2003. The fact that air transportation technology has been stagnant for decades should be raising innovation alarms around the globe.
Fortunately, flights on our planet and beyond are about pick up serious speed. UK company Reaction Engines has finalized a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the development of their revolutionary SABRE engine, the latest in cutting-edge technology.
The deal is worth 10 million Euro ($11 million) and may very well transform the way future astronauts travel to space, along with the possibility of revolutionizing the way we travel by air on Earth.
The Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) uses “atmospheric air” for initial acceleration, then switching to “rocket mode” for the final boost to reach space.
The ESA said, “The end result of this made-in-Europe technology would be low-cost, reliable, and reusable engines, potentially enabling future vehicles that could perform the equivalent job of today’s rockets while operating like an aircraft – revolutionizing access to space.”
On Earth, SABRE could allow an aircraft to travel five times the speed of sound. Given the extreme speed, a trip from Brussels to Sydney carrying 300 passengers could be done in 4.6 hours rather than the 21 hours with today’s technology.
Thanks to ESA’s funding, Reaction Engines will continue its development of a “ground demonstrator” SABRE engine, which they’re aiming to have complete by 2020.
In a press release, Mark Thomas, CEO of Reaction Engines said, “We’ve had valuable support from ESA and UKSA to date, and today’s agreement is a further vote of confidence not only in the revolutionary potential of this technology, but our ability to deliver it. We are now entering an exciting phase where we can accelerate the pace of development to get SABRE up and running.”
Reaction Engines has received 60 million pounds of grand funding thanks to the British government, which is close to $80 million US. Money was contributed by the UK Space Agency and ESA.
Katherine Courtney, the UK Space Agency’s acting CEO, said “We want the UK to be the best place in Europe to innovate and the SABRE engine program has the potential to change air and space travel forever.”
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