Rolls-Royce and Boeing invest in UK space engine

Boeing’s investment arm, HorizonX Ventures, and Rolls-Royce are investing around £26.5 million in Reaction Engines Limited (REL), an Oxfordshire-based company developing a revolutionary aerospace called SABRE that is part jet engine, part rocket engine.

This latest investment lifts the total capital raised in the past three years to around £100m. Previously, the Government invested £60m and BAE Systems initially injected £20m in 2015 and has invested new funds in this latest financial round.

REL CEO Mark Thomas, said: “This is a significant milestone for Reaction Engines. In addition to providing our largest round of private investment, these new partners bring invaluable expertise in both hypersonics and engine technologies with significant access to target markets.”

SABRE is designed to launch a vehicle from a standing start all the way to orbit in a single step. It would work like a conventional jet engine up to about Mach 5.5 before transitioning to rocket mode for the rest of the ascent. It could also be fitted to more traditional aircraft to reduce travel times.

Additionally, REL has secured a contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to conduct high-temperature airflow testing of REL’s precooler heat exchanger. These tests aim to contribute to a leap forward in precooled propulsion, for both jet and combined cycle engines, as well as opening possibilities for novel vehicle thermal management solutions.

Also this summer, REL should take control of its new test facility in the UK at Westcott, Buckinghamshire, where it will mount a demonstration in 2020 of the full cycle of the SABRE engine. If the tests go well, REL would then look to put the technology on a flight vehicle.