Hypersonic ‘space plane’ promises four-hour London to Sydney flights by 2030s

 Flight times from London to Sydney may be 80% shorter by 2030, if a high-speed rocket engine is launched in the UK.

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom’s space agency said on Tuesday it would work closely with the Australian space agency in an agreement called the “First World Space Bridge”.

The Oxfordshire-based Reaner Engines Synergetic Air-Breaet Rocket Engine (SABER) appears to be the jewel in the crown of this new project.

“When we have successfully operated the SABER rocket engine, it could enable us to reach Australia in less than four hours,” said Graham Turnnock, head of the British Space Agency.

“This is a technology that can certainly offer it. We are talking about the 2030s for operational service, and work is already very advanced.”


Supersonic flight enthusiasts have been yearning for a new way to break the sound barrier ever since Concorde stopped flying in 2003.

In April 2019, Reaction Engines announced successful tests for precooler, simulating conditions in Mach 3.3 , Or more than three times the speed of sound.

This is over 50% faster than the spectacular speed of the Concorde – which used to make the trip between New York and Paris in about 3.5 hours – and matches the speed record for the fastest jet aircraft ever, Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

Pre-cooling tests were conducted at a test facility at the Colorado Aerospace Port in the United States.

At such high speeds, air flowing through the engine can reach incredibly high temperatures, which can result in damage.


pre-cooling device reduces the temperature of the gases before they enter the primary engine itself.

Recent tests have shown that the component can cool gases from more than 1000 ° C to ambient temperature in less than 1/20 of a second, according to a statement from the reaction engines.

Mark Thomas, CEO of Reaction Engines, said: “This is a very important event that has seen Reaction Engines’ initial cooling technology deliver unparalleled heat transfer performance.”

“The HTX [precooler] test article has met all the test objectives and successful initial tests highlight the way our primary coolant provides the world-leading heat transfer capabilities in low weight and small volume.”

Thomas emphasized that this technology could also be used in hybrid electric flight as well as in high-speed flight.


SABER engine is designed to reach speeds higher than Mach 5 in the Earth’s atmosphere, after which it will be able to switch to a rocket that can fly through space at speeds up to Mach 25

. “Air from the air, allowing increased fuel efficiency and less weight than existing rocket engines that need to carry their own oxygen supply.

“The main thing about Saber is that it looks like a hybrid engine from a rocket engine and an Aero engine, so it allows the missile to breathe in the air,” Sean Driscoll, software director at Reaction Engines, told the UK Space Conference.

“Missiles have not really evolved in 70 years, while aircraft engines have become highly efficient, so if you can combine an air engine with a missile, you can get a very lightweight propulsion system and basically create a space plane.”

This is the interest in technology that Reaction Engines has received over £ 100 million ($ 130 million) in funding over the past four years, as well as securing investment from key industry players such as BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Boeing HorizonX.

The company is finalizing the construction of a test facility in Buckinghamshire, UK, which will be the site of SABER’s first onshore air breathing experiment.