Boeing has announced its investment in Reaction Engines Limited, a leader in advanced propulsion systems based in Oxfordshire.

Reaction Engines’ technology will contribute to the next generation of hypersonic flight and space access vehicles. The company is known for its Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE), a hybrid engine blending jet and rocket technology that is capable of Mach 5 in air-breathing mode and Mach 25 in rocket mode for space flight. As part of the SABRE program, Reaction Engines developed an ultra-lightweight heat exchanger that stops engine components from overheating at high speeds, thus improving access to hypersonic flight and space.

“As Reaction Engines unlocks advanced propulsion that could change the future of air and space travel, we expect to leverage their revolutionary technology to support Boeing’s pursuit of hypersonic flight,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president of Boeing HorizonX.

Founded by three propulsion engineers in 1989, Reaction Engines produces robust technical designs for advanced heat exchangers, air-breathing engines, and the vehicles they could power say the company. These capabilities may lead to high-speed point-to-point transport that is cost-effective and sustainable.

“Boeing is a world-leader in many fields, bringing invaluable expertise in hypersonic research and space systems. I am thrilled and honored that Boeing HorizonX has chosen Reaction Engines as its first UK investment,” said Mark Thomas, CEO of Reaction Engines.

“This is a very exciting step that will contribute to our efforts to develop a commercial technology business and accelerate opportunities to further the future of air and space travel through SABRE technology.”

Boeing HorizonX Ventures participated in this $37.3 million Series B funding round alongside Rolls-Royce Plc and BAE Systems. The Boeing HorizonX Ventures investment portfolio is made up of companies specialising in technologies for aerospace and manufacturing innovations, including autonomous systems, energy storage, advanced materials, augmented reality systems and software, machine learning, hybrid-electric propulsion and Internet of Things connectivity.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Great technical success story but does this mean that when RN and RAF finally gets its hypersonic missile technology in @ 75 years time as a replacement strike capability for the QE class we will be buying it from the USA.

  2. This is a typical British inventiveness story. British inventors are responsible for 70% of all the world’s innovation and new technology over the last 150 years. Problem is we never ever capitalise on our amazing abilities to invent ground breaking technology. The UK government should be all over this, issuing copyright and patent rights and protecting this technology.
    If we did capitalise by saying all these engines can only be built in the UK we could be the richest country in the world.
    Ditto the technology behind Ammonia catalyst conversion technology that cleans up diesel exhausts and would revolutionise diesel technology so that diesel engines truely are an environmentally safe technology.
    Look up ACC technology on the internet, excellent inventiveness from yet another British individual.

  3. Possibly not. Bae already own 20% share of the company from back in 2015, and also apparently invested more money, along with Boeing and rolls Royce, in this round of money raising. Fantastic potential with all of this, and hopefully the company will remain and invest in Britain.

  4. Careful Pete you cynicism is showing. I believe the UK Government investment in this is greater than that put in by Boeing, Rolls Royce and BAE put together. So at present I don’t see the technology being sold or transferred. What happens later is anyone’s guess.

    • Yes, I seemed to remember that the government has invested as well. I would love to know the percentage holdings after this series B funding round closes.

      The multinational nature of this is just par for the course in modern high tech fundraising. It works multiple ways, I know for a fact that there are US companies pitching to UK VCs as well as French companies (for instance – just talking of ones I have personal knowledge of) who have done the rounds and got series A and series B funding partially from US sources.

      US VCs tend to be more numerous and less risk-averse than their UK counterparts but startup funding is a very global operation nowadays. Having said that, I hope the UK government and Reaction Engine’s founders don’t get diluted down to miniscule percentage holdings in this or future funding rounds.

    • Indeed, the UK government has about 60% of the investment. Not mentioned in this report is that new UK testing facility for REL that is being opened this summer. Also, there is a test of this engine in the US this year which is being conducted by DARPA. Looks like a true success story.

      • Why America? Why by DARPA? It is OUR technology, should be tested here. Other counties should be begging USB’s to sell them this product AFTER we have designed a world leading aircraft design around it and lead the way. Then we can actually boost our industry and wealth of the nation. I’m angry about this, I had such high hopes but it will not be ours at all by the time it becomes a reality.

        • Just the fact that these particular tests are being conducted by DARPA doesn’t really tell us anything for sure. Maybe it’s simply a smart business move by Reaction Engines – perhaps DARPA has a ready built specialist test facility with the sort of environmental and telemetry facilities needed to perform this sequence of tests and it would be excessively expensive for Reaction Engines to replicate such a facility for one particular stage of testing with no residual use thereafter.

          We just don’t know the full context and I don’t think that the mention of the word DARPA should instantly be treated as a red flag.

    • Thanks Paul. Would have been nice if article had put the Investment by Boeing into context. However, such investments by manufacturers are often bound to exclusivity or partition of marketing and sales rights by geography. Will Boeing get exclusivity to market, albeit with the UK getting royalties. However, as we all know, It’s often the aftermarket where significant margins are made. If there is marketing exclusivity then I trust aftermarket royalties have been factored in.

    • NASA have an early model exchanger. An engineer doing a presentation I saw said he didn’t think they would get it back

  5. I remember seeing an article stating that uk government funding was in the tens of millions. I might be wrong. I totally agree Mr Bell, why has our government not invested hundreds of millions in R&D. If we keep these amazing technologies all to ourselves instead of selling them or giving them away they have the chance to make us very rich. We would be the country that all others are queuing up to buy from. Madness.

    • No one is giving away or selling this technology. This is just an investment by RR and Boeing which underlines the promise of this design. This is the first time Boeing has invested in any UK firm. The UK government has invested over 60% of the total investment.

    • Have some perspective, please. They are not going to “sell this down the river” mostly because they have no incentive to do so and it is a private company, so they can do what they like.

    • This is unacceptable to see Boeing ruthlessly arrange another bite from the UK technological genius at the R&D phase. I shall wait to see where this is headed.

  6. I wonder if this was influenced at all by Boeing trying to placate the British Govt a little due to the animosity it generated in the Bombadier episode with some investment toes in the water.

    Am I right in thinking this is the latest iteration of the work originally put into the Hotel project that seemed lost to earth kind way back. Certainly gone through a lot of ups and downs over time but read a while back that this revolutionary heat exchanger for the first time solves much of the problems (indeed the fundamental one) such an engine would suffer. That I believe is what the US test is all about. Fact is thereafter taking the tech to an actual reliable engine would need the sort of investment, capabilities and immediate market that would allow it to come to fruition in good time so this commitment from Boeing is excellent news. If we end up with only 50% of the project by the production stage in the end that would be an amazing bonus to our industry and status with massive further opportunities thereafter and a come to technology base far beyond what this country can generate on its own.

  7. I genuinely don’t know why they push this ruse that this is the bleeding edge of future propulsion.
    there may be one or two on here who can confirm but may choose not to but this is most certainly stone age tech by todays standards that we’re investing in. waste of effort unless it’s going to be used on commercial aircraft.

  8. Yet another fine example of Britain at its best.

    Time to stop giving away Billions of pounds in aid, golden handshakes to the EU when we should be investing in Britain’s Military capability and industry.

    I’ve offered wondered if common sense exists within the walls of Parliament.

    • Agree Nigel.

      I’ve wondered that too. Too many self interested MPs more interested in EU competition rules than investing in our industries.

  9. The SABRE engine has a number of key technologies. Such as a variable dimension rocket exhaust etc. But the primary leap in technology is the intercooler. This drops the superheated air temperature to a constant -150 Celsius allowing the efficiency of the engine to increase massively. The new engine has been developed from the earlier Hotol engine but is a quantum leap ahead in design.
    Fingers crossed Reaction Engines are savvy to the machinations of government interference and politics.

    • I’m really excited about this technology and am very proud that it is originating in the U.K. I do confess though that, with the recent T45 issues, I do have to suppress a momentary feeling of dread when I hear mention of innovative technology in conjunction with an inter cooler 🙂

  10. Vosper Thorycroft’s developed the Seawraith concept, the US built the Zumwalt. VT’s developed the Triton, the US built the littoral independence class trimarans. Electromagnetic Rail gun development in the UK, the US further develop (albeit with BAE, sort of a British firm) and will deploy it in the future, electromagnetic catapults mooted for the new carriers in 1997-98, with dnstl and Converteam UK (now US owned) developing them, the US carried on in the view to the UK buying them in the future. Cella Energy developing hydrogen beads for use in combustion engines and other systems, OC robotics with snake arm technology that could see the market become massive for this and the list goes on and on. What I’m saying is, the UK invents/develops up to a point, then something happens or it stops, why? This is a British stuff at it’s best, but we could well see it being seen as American in the end. Boeing being involved is great, but we need to capitalise out of these technologies. Are we, or are we not going to re-balance the economy? Why do we doubt ourselves? We still need a great steelmaking industry too, along with other UK material manufacturers, it is core.

      • We have the cash alright, we lack the vision. All we see is leisure centres, shops and financial services that all put us into recession.

      • To add. In what way is the UK too small when smaller Countries achieve so much? How is the UK small. Think small, and you will be small. We just don’t follow many things through for whatever reason. In many cases, it is vested interests.

  11. That’s not much. I’ve seen the presentation when they came to Barrow and the Government aren’t very helpful. Clearly the company has has no alternative then to allow the US to see their tech. Oh well nice idea while it lasted

  12. I don’t support in any way another sell off of yet another UK strategic company. That mug at No11 Downing street is a tart who would sell his grand-mother for a week in Majorca.

  13. I would happily see our government invest hugely in this as the gains could be in the billions eventually to us. Jobs, taxes paid and investment in our hi tech industries.

  14. Mark Cownley May 12, 2018 21.09
    We do do have the money! we should stop sending millions in foreign aid to countries like China and India both have both have bigger and more capable Air forces and Navies than the UK does. They also have there own Space projects. This technology is the Holy Grail of future propulsion for military and civil Airliners and if we don’t invest in this technology we will regret it and loose it. I do hope this world beating technology like with the TSR2 and Concorde all off which were years ahead of their time doesn’t succumb the same fate !!

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