London to Sydney in 4 hours, anyone?
I bet you never thought it’d be possible to fly to the other side of the planet in mere hours, but UK aerospace firm Reaction Engines is developing the Skylon super plane that will travel at spaceflight speeds — this means it could travel at an orbital velocity as fast as 25 times the speed of sound.
Reaction has been working on the project for years, but just this week, the firm announced a new partnership with BAE Systems, a defense and aerospace giant. BAE’s financial backing, along with a cool £60 million from the UK government, will help Reaction make its entirely new class of aerospace engine a reality by as early as 2020. The aerospace engine will be called SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) and test flights could potentially fire up as soon as 2025.
It’s the SABRE engine that will propel the super plane to its rocketship-like speeds, and the engine’s cooling system is perhaps the most critical aspect of the innovation. The engine will have ultra-lightweight heat exchangers, 100 times lighter than existing technologies. Amazingly, they’ll be able to cool the extremely hot airstreams from over 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit) to minus 150 degrees Celsius (minus 238 degrees Fahrenheit) in less than 1/100th of a second.
The SABRE engine is truly incredible — it will be able to power aircrafts from standstill on a runway to speeds of over five times the speed of sound while still in Earth’s atmosphere. According to the latest press release from the developers, the engine will then transition to a “rocket mode,” which is how it will reach speeds of up to 25 times the speed of sound.
These impressive speeds are still considered theoretical until confirmed by actual test flights, but Reaction assures that the technology has “undergone extensive independent technical assessments which have confirmed its viability and potential vehicle applications,” according to the press release.
But for the next decade or so, we can dream of better days while we sit through those dreadfully long hours on packed planes with at least a couple of crying babies. Thankfully, SABRE engines could one day make those painfully long travel days obsolete. Plus, who wouldn’t want to swing around to the other side of the world for a weekend?