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Space Transportation Science

British Skylon Engine Passes Its Tests 172

An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports that the SABRE hybrid (part air-breathing jet, part rocket) that is intended to power the Skylon single-stage-to-orbit space plane has passed its final technical demonstration test, and is now looking for money (only £250m!) to prepare for manufacturing. If this goes ahead, travel into orbit from local airports (ideally, those close to the equator) will be possible. And quite cheaply. But might it have the same legal difficulties flying from U.S. airports as the Concorde did?"
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British Skylon Engine Passes Its Tests

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  • Only £250m! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bdevoe ( 1811096 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @02:24PM (#42119937)
    I sense a Kickstarter in the offing...
  • only (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @02:47PM (#42120329)

    Fuel is cheap: rocket designers dream of a future where fuel will be the primary cost of launching things into space. Developing a space plane is not, and you have to invest all that money before you even know if it will work.

    SpaceX estimates for launches on a reusable Falcon are similar to the estimates for Skylon, and they can build up to it, starting with expendable versions that are proving the technology and making money. Skylon has the tricky 'give us ten billion and it will probably work' hurdle to jump over.

  • Re:One problem (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @04:07PM (#42121479)

    The propulsion system is completely different. The space shuttle was designed in the 70s and used the materials and design techniques of 40 years ago. There is no comparison.

    ^ This. Also, the original space shuttle design was completely borked by military demands to increase its size. The shuttle basically suffered major bloat and feature creep, which was largely responsible for its ineffeciency and unreliabilty.

  • Re:Misleading Title (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @04:16PM (#42121615)

    This test used a large tank of liquid nitrogen as a heat sink.

    Replacing your oxidizer tank with a coolant gas tank isn't a huge net gain. Any heat taken out of input air has to be put into the cooling system. Which is yet to be developed. The engine has to cool both the O2 and the inert parts of the air. My gut says: net loss for simply carrying coolant vs. simply carrying O2. A heat pump to fill this roll in flight is a major engineering challenge. It would require a metric assload of energy to operate.

    Also note any space plane will need cooling for leading edges of flight surfaces. SR-71 did this by using pre-cooled fuel and running the fuel through heat exchangers on the leading edges just before burning.

    They short circuited a huge engineering challenge by using a liquid nitrogen boiler as a heat sink.

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @05:47PM (#42122951)

    Many years ago in high school I think, I wrote a report on the X-15 rocket plane. The impression I got was that, while vertical rocket technology got us further faster in the short term, a more gradual development of hypersonic planes would've been better in the long run. We might have had a whole generation of space planes lobbing satellites and even space tourists capsules cheaper, more safely, and with faster turn-around time. I'm not an engineer, so I could be completely full of crap, too.

  • Re:Only £250m! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by a_hanso ( 1891616 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @10:29PM (#42125909) Journal
    I'm more worried about this thing violating Apple patents. I mean... just look at those black, rounded edges...

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen