UK company Reaction Engines has tested its innovative precooler at airflow temperature conditions equivalent to Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. This achievement marks a significant milestone in its ESA-supported development of the air-breathing SABRE engine, paving the way for a revolution in space access and hypersonic flight.
The precooler heat exchanger is an essential SABRE element that cools the hot airstream generated by air entering the engine intake at hypersonic speed.
“This is not only an excellent achievement in its own right but one important step closer to demonstrating the feasibility of the entire SABRE engine concept,” said Mark Ford, heading ESA’s Propulsion Engineering section.
The test facility
The Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) is uniquely designed to scoop up atmospheric air during the initial part of its ascent to space at up to five times the speed of sound. At about 25 km it would then switch to pure rocket mode for its final climb to orbit.
A spaceplane concept, based on the the SABRE engine.
ESA, via the UK Space Agency, has invested €10 million in SABRE development, together with £50 million (€58 million) from UKSA. ESA also performs a technical supervisory role on behalf of UKSA. In March, the two agencies reviewed and validated the preliminary design of the demonstrator engine core of SABRE, which Reaction Engines will use to undertake ground-based testing at its under-construction TF1 test facility at Westcott, Buckinghamshire, UK.