Skylon Spaceplane Concept
Whenever we think of space endeavors, organizations such as NASA, European Space Agency or even ISRO crop up in our heads. But a private British aerospace company – Reaction Engines Limited (REL) is all set to rather develop a more inclusive system of space traveling, with their Skylon spaceplane concept.
The Skylon concept will be a single stage to orbit combined cycle powered orbital spaceplane. A single stage to orbit (SSTO) vehicle reaches orbit from the surface of a body without jettisoning hardware, in the process expending only propellants and fluids. That means the Skylon will not use booster rockets of any kind (though SSTO vehicles still remain in conceptual stages).
And here comes the part about fuel efficiency that interests us – if the researchers can work it out, the cost of launching a payload to geostationary orbit would be fifteen times cheaper than it is now! The concept will be using the company’s own SABRE engine (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine), and according to European Space Agency:
“ESA has not identified any critical topics that would prevent a successful development of the engine.”
Again it should be duly noted that the SABRE is also at its conceptual stage (though a engine derivative has already being designed for a passenger jet). The system basically calls for a hypersonic precooled hybrid air breathing rocket engine for launching the proposed Skylon into low Earth orbit (LEO). The precooling mechanism cools the hot, ram compressed air, in effect creating a high pressure ratio within the engine. The compressed air is further fed to the combustion chamber, to be ignited with liquid hydrogen, while the high pressure ratio provides the high thrust at very high speeds and altitudes.