UKSA Reviews Skylon and SABRE


On September 20-21st, the UK Space Agency hosted a meeting at the International Space Innovation Centre at Harwell, England to look at the feasibility of a proposal by the privately-held Reaction Engines Ltd. for the design of a single-stage to orbit launch vehicle (Skylon) and its novel propulsion concept (SABRE). The meeting brought together nearly a hundred invited experts from the UK, Europe, Russia, the US, South Korea and Japan to examine the technical and economic prospects for the technology.

The SABRE (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) is a variable-cycle engine which can use air taken in through intakes like a turbojet when operating in the atmosphere before converting to pure rocket mode as it enters space. In the Skylon vehicle concept, it would allow 10-15 tonnes of satellite payload to be injected into Low Earth Orbit before the vehicle returned under automatic control to its spaceport close to the equator.

Both SABRE and Skylon would represent major advances in aerospace technology and could change the economics of access to space. Supported by funding from the private sector and the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency (ESA) is managing a technology contract to demonstrate key parts of the SABRE engine. So the workshop was an important step in allowing the wider space community to understand progress towards the ultimate goal building a vehicle like Skylon.

The workshop was one of a series of space innovation events at the International Space Innovation Centre, the new hub of space projects in the UK.