May 24, 2011

ESA Gives Go Ahead For Skylon’s Next Phase

The European Space Agency (ESA) has concluded its review of the U.K. spaceplane concept and found nothing keeping it from continuing on, reports BBC News.

The Skylon vehicle would be a rocket that operates like an airliner, taking off and landing at a conventional runway.

ESA plans the next stage of development to be a ground demonstration of its Sabre engine.

The engine is designed to breathe oxygen from the air in the early phases of flight before switching to full rocket mode as the Skylon vehicle breaches past the atmosphere into space.

Skylon's "single-stage-to-orbit" operation makes it an enticing prospect that could substantially reduce the cost of space activity.

The U.K. Space Agency (UKSA) commissioned ESA to evaluate the design, and the European organization's staff said on Tuesday that they found no obvious flaws.

"ESA has not identified any critical topics that would prevent a successful development of the engine," they write in their review.

The vehicle has been in development in the U.K. for nearly 30 years.  It is designed in such a way that it could be reused up to 200 times. 

In 2004, the projected cost of the program was about $12 billion.

SKYLON image courtesy Adrian Mann/Reaction Engines Ltd


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