Reaction Engines has successfully tested its precooler at airflow temperature conditions representing Mach 5, marking a significant milestone in the development of its SABRE engine.

The firm say that the precooler heat exchanger is a vital component of the revolutionary SABRE air-breathing rocket engine, on which Reaction Engines is working in collaboration with companies including BAE Systems, and is an enabling technology for other precooled propulsion systems and a range of commercial applications.

“This ground-based test achieved the highest temperature objective of the Company’s HTX testing programme and took place at its specially constructed unique facility at the Colorado Air and Space Port, United States.

During the latest series of tests, Reaction Engines’ unique precooler successfully quenched airflow temperatures in excess of 1,000°C (~1,800°F) in less than 1/20th of a second. The tests demonstrated the precooler’s ability to successfully cool airflow at speeds significantly in excess of the operational limit of any jet-engine powered aircraft in history. Mach 5 is more than twice as fast as the cruising speed of Concorde and over 50% faster than the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft – the world’s fastest jet-engine powered aircraft.”

This most recent test builds upon the previous HTX hot tests undertaken in April which saw the precooler successfully operate at temperatures of 420ᵒC (~788ᵒF) – matching the thermal conditions corresponding to Mach 3.3 flight.

Mark Thomas, Chief Executive, Reaction Engines, said:

“This is a major moment in the development of a breakthrough aerospace technology which has seen Reaction Engines’ precooler tested at Mach 5 airflow temperature conditions, smashing through previous achievements at Mach 3.3 temperatures and paving the way for hypersonic flight. In addition to its use in our SABRE class of air breathing rocket engines, there are numerous exciting commercial applications for our precooler technology, which delivers world-leading heat transfer capabilities at low weight and compact size, and we are seeing significant interest from a range of potential customers and technology partners.”

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Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

Will part of this technology be passed on to the Typhoon engine upgrades?

Oliver Goodwin
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Oliver Goodwin

Air Chief Marshal Stephen Hillier said the technology is ‘being considered’ for Typhoon. I’m no expert, and I’m not sure how the Typhoon airframe would cope with these increased speeds, but I’d like to think we would retrofit them with the precooler at some point (after full validation of course). I recall reading reports that it would increase outputs by about 30%? But that figure is only by memory and I cant remember where I got it from. I think the most important issue is assuring this technology is incorporated into the Tempest program.

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

Many thanks, Oliver, I couldn’t agree more! A further increase in power for Typhoon with future upgrades (Long-Term Evolution Package) and Praetorian Evolution as mentioned here on UKDJ will keep Typhoon ahead of the game in many respects for many years to come. I’ve long been an advocator for additional numbers of Tranche 3a aircraft to make up the numbers instead of the F35-A until the arrival of Tempest at some point in the future. Currently, we have 53 Tranche 1 aircraft that could be sold off and replaced by these, keeping the production line open while boosting our defence… Read more »

David
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David

Just to point out that this technology has the potential to significantly reduce fuel burn (ignoring weight added). As the increased mass resulting from the decreased temperature will boost thrust, allowing the engine to run at a lower rotational speed for the same thrust produced. It would be interesting how the heat exchanger deals with an internal failure though. Seems like this could be the major game-changer gas turbines have been waiting for.

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

Thank you David, so an increase in range as well, fingers crossed we take advantage of this game-changing technology!

DaveyB
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DaveyB

Or perversely significantly increase dry and reheated thrust. The limiting factor is the aircraft’s shape and aerodynamics which aren’t designed to go past Mach 2.5. However, with the pre-cooler you give the aircraft a number of options, either significantly increasing its range as you’ve made it more fuel efficient. Or give the aircraft much greater instantaneous thrust so it accelerates much more quickly but also a greater power reserve. This means the pilot has better options in air combat of either taking the advantage or escaping when the odds are stacked against them. If this technology was built-in during the… Read more »

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

Exciting prospects ahead if this comes to fruition. I hope this is achievable short term making Typhoon/Tempest the way forward for the RAF instead of purchasing the F35-A

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Hi Nigel, I have argued in the past for an F-35A purchase, but do feel the UK has not maximised its investment in the Typhoon programme – so I could be persuaded by your argument. Good post.

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

Thank you Alan. By 2024 the F35 should have block 4 software installed and hopefully working with only three years left until the first 6th gen Tempest takes its maiden flight if all goes to plan. A new engine for the F-35 will begin testing sometime in 2021 to improve range and performance, so we will not see these installed on our aircraft until at least the same timeframe. With suitable partners coming on board to develop Tempest this for me is the most practical way forward for the RAF making good use of the current sensor suites that we… Read more »

farouk
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farouk

Isn’t that the plane that International rescue saved from crashing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lWNZowvWEk

farouk
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farouk

Oh damn it, I may as well throw in one of the best introductions to any program going
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdCY221OvWE

Andy P
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Andy P

Good shout mate and best of all, its based on a true story…….

Spyinthesky
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Spyinthesky

Add this to the simulated images of Musks Starship in space looking almost the spitting image of Fireball XL5 and we can see that clearly Gerry Anderson was a visitor from the future even if Sylvia seemed to be stuck somewhere in Downton Abbey.

Geoffrey Hicking
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Geoffrey Hicking

There is no better name for an aircraft than the Fireflash International Atomic Powered Aircraft! (didn’t click the link, didn’t need to 🙂 )

AlbertStarburst
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AlbertStarburst

When I was little(er) I grew up by Heathrow and played on those magnificent Vickers VC10s lined up with their BOAC blue tails and gold Speedbird insignia. I used to watch Thunderbirds and Fireflash, and I was convinced it was sort of real (based on my environment) and kept looking for familiar landmarks on the horizon during the airport scenes. They i grew up and realised that it wasn’t real, Santa was a fraud, and the British aircraft industry had become pants. If only somebody had a vision then and now for the British aircraft industry…

Cam
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Cam

In USA! Why can’t we British do our own independent work these days!!… it sucks, even SIR MR Richard B has all state side company’s …..Will the UK ever have British owned high tech company’s again!!

Spyinthesky
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Spyinthesky

To be fair Reaction Engines earlier texting was mostly in the UK and their new UK test facilities will be completed very soon and where most of the future testing will take place. I believe US high speed flight expertise in this particular testing regime which we can’t simply match and the ability to do it much earlier than we could resulted in it taking place in the US. As much of the inevitable interest in this technology will be in the US I think this may not be a bad idea actually. Massive investment will be required to get… Read more »

dan
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dan

Maybe if you lowered your sky high tax rates. lol

Will
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Will

40 million people living in poverty in the US lol

Julian
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Julian

“Maybe if you lowered your sky high tax rates. lol” Do you have specific data points in mind to back that up? Corporation tax in the UK for instance is 18% currently and dropping to 17% in April next year vs what Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_tax_in_the_United_States) tells me is a basic 21% federal rate and that’s before any state and maybe even a local components are added on top of that depending on reporting location. I also suspect the difference in income tax rates are less than most Americans believe especially when again you factor in state income tax where appropriate on… Read more »

Julian1
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Julian1

I can tell you that in NJ where I live, combined federal and state taxes mean I pay fractionally less tax than I did in the UK when I left 3 years ago. However, when you add the town tax and of course the many thousands you pay for medical insurance, you end up paying far more. State tax varies considerably within the country as does town tax within the state. However, the streets are safe and clean and the schools good where I live. Generally speaking i’d say your uk tax £ is better spent than your US $… Read more »

Julian
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Julian

That’s sounds like a pretty fair assessment. “Fractionally less” seems about right and doesn’t support Dan’s “sky high” observation assuming that his comment is intended to be read as “sky high compared to the USA”. In the late 1980s I spent 3 years working in New Jersey (mostly Summit but also Morristown towards the end of my stay). I remember those places exactly as you describe; clean, safe, good schools and other facilities but boy did the restaurants close early in the evenings. Maybe that last bit isn’t the same now. I was young(ish) and wanted to experience the big… Read more »

julian1
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julian1

lucky you – I wish I was on an ex-pat deal! I live close to Summit – Westfield. Next year I return to the UK: can’t wait

Cam
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Cam

We British sold a couple of RollsRoyce jet engines to Russia after WW2 and what did they do? They Back engineered them!. Why do we always give or sell our unique tech to foreign nations! It’s so sad. We once were world leaders in almost everything you can think of.

farouk
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farouk

Cam,
Id rather be more concerned about how Labour handed over the most advanced Jet engines in the World to communist Russia in 1946.

farouk
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farouk

Damn I should learn to read English, I could have sworn you wrote America’ what a baffoon I am.

Cam
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Cam

No worries mate lol

Spyinthesky
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Spyinthesky

Not helped by presenting the technology (amongst many others) as part payment for lend lease to the US, not that it stopped us having to continue paying it off into this century. That and German technology is ironically what contributed most to make America great post war and that Trump so longs to reacreate.

Cam
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Cam

How come we british paid of our war debt to an Allie USA but we let our Enemy Germany off with the money they owed the UK! Germany paid back many nations but we british??

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Von Braun. NASA. Apollo. Paperclip, radar, early RAM and god knows what else handed over on a plate spring to mind.

Cymbeline
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Cymbeline

Yes, the labour party at the time wanted to improve the UK – Russia relations and to their utter disbelief we sold them a few of the Nene engines which as stated above they promptly reverse engineered. I think they then turned up in Korea in the Mig 15 and gave the yanks a bit of a fright as in the right hands was at least as good as if not better than the Sabre F86. Needless to say the Yanks were not happy with us brits.

DaveyB
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DaveyB

The best part was their “sticky shoes” espionage. When Russian officials were shown around the Rolls Royce factory. Some of the delegates had sticky shoes designed to pick up swarf. They deliberately wanted to see the machining being done on the shaft, compressor and turbine blades. By walking around the lathes and mills the shoes picked up the swarf left behind. from this they could work out the metals being used to make the component. Then selling the engines to the CCCP was a master-stroke, that accelerated their understanding of the gas turbine. Luckily they were centrifugal rather than axial… Read more »

Cymbeline
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Cymbeline

Wish I could give you a thumbs up for your post DaveB, most interesting.

Andy P
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Andy P

Worse than that mate, I think we might have given a couple of Goblins (I’ll leave that one out there) to the USSR to get them to buy them and the goddamn commies reverse engineered them.

Spyinthesky
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Spyinthesky

Don’t worry it’s not like we will have a naive left wing Govt of that nature again is it…. Oh right.

Andy P
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Andy P

That’s the spirit, break it down to politics and take a cheap shot at your personal bad guys. Because guaranteed, your ‘goodies’ have never done anything wrong. Nope, never, no sirree.

That’s whoever your personal goodies and baddies are by the way.

Peter Shaw
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Peter Shaw

I noticed that a lot of people posting here about why the UK can’t develop technology without anyone else. Well simply put it is about R&D spend against GDP is half that of almost all our competitors. We’re great at low TRL levels but when you need to upscale to the higher TRL levels that’s when you need the investment and to be quite frank it isn’t there. So instead of complaining start campaigning to increase R&D spend in the UK (e.g. overseas aid is largely wasted money and it doesn’t reduce immigration to the UK so perhaps cut that… Read more »

BB85
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BB85

Its an issue every government has know about for decades. Pretty sure Germany and the USA offer huge tax rebates for investing in R&D so I’m not sure why the same programs have not been provided in the UK. We seem to be more interested in just providing subsidies so the government can tell industry what to produce and then change its mind every 10 minutes then wonder why industry is in the state its in.

Julian
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Julian

The UK does have a scheme of R&D tax credits. I don’t know how it compares with German or USA schemes but there is at least something in place. There are also schemes in the UK to encourage private investors to invest in early stage companies e.g. EIS, SEIS and more lately VCTs(*) which allow private investors to variously offset capital gains, get tax free dividends and even get up-front refunds on personal income tax all in return for capital investments into early-stage companies. EIS = Enterprise Initiative Scheme SEIS = Seed Enterprise Initiative Scheme VCT = Venture Capital Trust… Read more »

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

Cutting foreign aid by half will give us an additional £7 Billion Per annum, and leaving the EU if we ever do will provide an additional 12 Billion Per annum. More than enough to invest in R&D and much more besides I would have thought!

Andy P
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Andy P

One man’s ‘foriegn aid’ is another man’s back hander to buy British. Or Influence a country/regime. It’s some of the grease that makes the wheels of diplomacy and economics turn.

Geoffrey Hicking
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Geoffrey Hicking

I’d happily invest in Reaction Engines, but apparently ordinary idiots like me aren’t allowed to! Its maddening.

Julian
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Julian

Agreed. See my post further up on EIS/SEIS/VCT schemes. It’s a real shame that Reaction Engines doesn’t do at least part of its next round of capital raise via an EIS scheme. That would give people like you and me an opportunity to invest and due to the nature of the tax incentives associated with that scheme would be fairly well targeted at UK investors.

Bloke down the pub
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Bloke down the pub

The Sabre engine was designed for a SSTO plane, powered by liquid hydrogen with liquid oxygen being added once the vehicle was too high to extract oxygen from the atmosphere. As such, the cryo fuel acted as the heat dump for the energy extracted from the incoming hot air. I’ve yet to hear an explanation of how a Typhoon or Tempest, fueled by jet fuel, can cope with the extracted energy from the heat exchanger.

DaveyB
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DaveyB

It’s quite simple. You have two options, the first being to use the existing fuel as the cold sink for the heat exchanger. Unfortunately this won’t get the air temperature down to below zero as the fuel tanks are not insulated so the skin friction will heat up the fuel. The second option is to include a refrigeration unit. Then use liquid helium as the main coolant pumped through the exchanger. There is scope to include a refrigeration unit in the engine’s outer skin where the by-pass air flows down. This would add little additional bulk to the engine as… Read more »

Watcherzero
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Watcherzero

Add a thermoelectric generator to iit and you can convert 5-8% off the excess heat into electricity and use it to help power all the new gizmos proposed like communications and anti-missile laser.

Michael francis
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Michael francis

so a lay person question here. Could these be fitted to cruise missiles.