BAE invests £20.6m to develop hybrid rocket/jet engine

BAE Systems has announced it is to invest £20.6million for a 20% stake of Reaction Engines to develop its SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine). SABRE combines both jet and rocket technologies and is claimed to have the potential to revolutionise hypersonic flight and the economics of space access.

Nigel Whitehead, group managing director, programmes and support, BAE Systems said: “Our partnership with Reaction Engines is part of our sustained commitment to investing in and developing prospective emerging technologies.”

According to Reaction Engines, an aircraft equipped with SABRE would be able to accelerate to speeds of over five times the speed of sound before transitioning to a rocket mode which would propel the aircraft to orbital velocity speed (25 times the speed of sound).

Reaction Engines has already designed the SKYLON, an un-piloted, re-usable spaceplane concept intended to carry up to 15 tonnes of cargo into space. It would take off from and return to a runway like a conventional aeroplane.

Mark Thomas, managing director, Reaction Engines said: “Today’s announcement represents an important landmark in the transition of Reaction Engines from a company that has been focused on the research and testing of enabling technologies for the SABRE engine to one that is now focused on the development and testing of the world’s first SABRE engine.”

The UK Government is also expected to confirm grant funding of £60m to further SABRE’s development and to investigate its applications for space access vehicles.

Together with BAEs’ investment, this funding will not only support the development and testing of SABRE, but will also allow Reaction Engines to expand its workforce of skilled engineers.