back to article Cash injection fuels SABRE spaceplane engine

The UK's Reaction Engines Limited has announced a healthy injection of funds into the development of its revolutionary SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) power system. The company has inked a deal with BAE Systems, which will "invest £20.6m in Reaction Engines to acquire 20 per cent of its share capital and also …

  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Very mixed feelings about this

    .Plus side.

    It's an extra £20m in the REL war chest.

    Minus side

    It's BAe.

    If you look up "Government con-tractor" in a British dictionary they would be the entry.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Very mixed feelings about this

      BAe do have a habit of milking the the Defense budget for all its worth, but can you blame them or any company for that?

      It's those responsible for awarding and overseeing the contracts that are to blame - if they are too ignorant to realise that they are paying BAe to re-invent the wheel then it's not BAE's fault.

      Timeand again, we see various Defense Contracts being awarded which then overrun with absolutely no penalities being imposed or those responsible for awarding the contract being held accountable.

      1. theModge

        Re: Very mixed feelings about this

        Interestingly being the local MP for a chunk of BAe can get you made a defence minister with an interest in procurement. His name is Sir Peter James Luff and I'm sure* this is entirely above board, just as his expenses were found to be**.

        *Not at all sure,

        **bent as a nine bob note

      2. Toltec

        Re: Very mixed feelings about this

        "t's those responsible for awarding and overseeing the contracts that are to blame - if they are too ignorant to realise that they are paying BAe to re-invent the wheel then it's not BAE's fault."

        What also happens is that somewhere in the spec is a number that seemed like a good idea at the time, but in reality is very difficult to achieve. Large amounts of budget are spent trying to hit this number only to find that it was not particularly critical and a far easier value would have been perfectly acceptable in operation.

      3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Very mixed feelings about this

        "BAe do have a habit of milking the the Defense budget for all its worth, but can you blame them or any company for that?"

        Yes I bloody well can, and do so. Because it's just not fair. That's just like stealing cash from that blind, crippled, deaf kid selling newspapers in front of a disused tube station. And stealing the newspapers too.

      4. Sir Sham Cad

        Re: responsible for awarding and overseeing the contracts

        The problem is that BAE don't bid fairly. Ever.

        Here's what happens:

        1) BAE smell fresh pork.

        2) BAE remind Whitehall how many people in the UK they employ

        3) "Nice jobs you have there. Shame if anything were to happen to them"

        4) CONTRACT!

        5) BAE smell more pork

        6) "Nice Defence Project you have there. Shame if anything were to happen to it"

        7) MORE PORK!

        You'd need to be incredibly hard nosed to turn BAE down for an MoD contract.

        1. Mike Richards Silver badge

          Re: responsible for awarding and overseeing the contracts

          You left out the stage where BAE uses the British taxpayer money to buy a foreign defence contractor and quietly siphon jobs from the UK to the US.

          But apart from that, spot on.

          1. Blitheringeejit
            Flame

            Re: responsible for awarding and overseeing the contracts

            And you both missed out the bit where the top civil servant who negotiated the financially disastrous contract, and/or the minister who signed it off, inexplicably end up about two years later earning a six-figure salary for two days work a week on the board of BAE.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: responsible for awarding and overseeing the contracts

            "quietly siphon jobs from the UK to the US"

            How else will the US allow a supersonic transport to operate in their airspace? If they don't build it or at least have a significant interest in it, it won't be allowed to fly supersonic in case it curdles the milk in cows.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: responsible for awarding and overseeing the contracts

          @Sir Sham

          You are of course, complete right - but how stupid must the Civil "Servants" or the relevent Minister be (or how corrupt) to fall for the same trick time after time after time?

          BAe spot a ploy that works and HMG keeps falling for it - Blair/Brown are two notable muppets for falling for that ploy over the QE Class Carriers.

      5. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: Very mixed feelings about this

        Timeand again, we see various Defense Contracts being awarded which then overrun with absolutely no penalities being imposed or those responsible for awarding the contract being held accountable.

        Playing devil's advocate here, maybe some of the contracts are to build things that have never been built before* and probably on the bleeding edge of technology.

        I'm not sure any company would give you a fixed price/time contract in such circumstances.

        * I'm excluding the idea that another country may have already made it and you don't want to/can't buy from them.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Very mixed feelings about this

      Bound to be successful - has a cool acronym.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Very mixed feelings about this

      "con-tractor" A device for moving a vast amount of con, usually to be spread over the government and public.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Thumb Up

        ""con-tractor" A device for moving a vast amount of con, "

        That's much cleverer than why I originally started using it.

        Very neat.

  2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Go

    pull yer finger out

    US:Elon Musk we'll be on Mars.

    UK:We might have an engine thats only taken 20 years to develop.

    There's times when I am ashamed on how small our reach is. Remember when we just did things. For all their faults (and there are hideously many) thats one thing our American cousins dont lack.

    1. sawatts

      Re: pull yer finger out

      "UK:We might have an engine thats only taken 20 years to develop."

      ...and the 30 years it has been in development so far. Reaction Engines are the current torchholder for the HOTOL project which was announced mid-80s and given minimal funding by HMG.

      The Sabre engine would represent a genuine leap in technology, but wouldn't get you to Mars.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        @sawatts Re: pull yer finger out

        When (if?) it goes into production it will get you to LEO, and as any fule kno, getting to orbit means you're 90% of you way to anywhere, at least in terms of energy expended. So no, a sabre-powered craft probably won't take you directly to Mars, but it doesn't need to. It only needs to deliver you to ship that takes you on the last leg of the journey.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: @sawatts pull yer finger out

          I read David Ashford's book Spaceflight Revolution more than a dozen years ago. He is now 76, I hope he had a good many years left to see the engine run.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: pull yer finger out

        "The Sabre engine would represent a genuine leap in technology, but wouldn't get you to Mars."

        No, but cheap and frequent trips to LEO, even with "only" 15 tonnes per trip might be a useful stepping stone to building or even just fuelling an interplanetary manned ship.

      3. BlackKnight(markb)

        Re: pull yer finger out

        It might actually.

        A sabre engine on a space plane should mean useful payloads into orbit at much cheaper rates.

        Suddenly that mars budget can be stretched a whole lot further.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: pull yer finger out

      I can take your criticism of the UK, but holding the USA up as a better example? Come on. Elon Musk hasn't managed to make Tesla profitable yet; it only exists because of billions of dollars of government subsidies. I approve of his can-do attitude, but he hasn't gone to Mars yet. And he's more the exception rather than the rule, in any case.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: pull yer finger out

      Elon Musk is originally a South African by the way.

    4. stucs201

      Re: pull yer finger out

      I actually see Space/X and REL as nicely complementary.

      The Sabre engine is good for the taxi service to LEO and the occasional satellite.

      That frees up Space/X and their conventional (ish) rockets to concentrate on the heavy lifting and far-off destinations.

      One might be more exciting than the other, but both are necessary.

    5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: pull yer finger out

      US We'll build quite a good LOX Kero gas generator rocket engine, which has has been done 20-40 times already using the "Bank of Elon" to fund it.

      UK. We'll build a deeply pre cooled turbo rocket engine (which is what SABRE technically is) that will deliver an Isp about 6x that of the best rocket engines (while in the atmosphere) and allow you to build a Single Stage to Orbit vehicle with the same payload fraction as a 2 stage rocket (something no previous SSTO has come anywhere near deliving)

      And we'll have to raise the money from investors who will demand a return on investment at every stage of the process.

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: pull yer finger out

        "something no previous SSTO has come anywhere near delivering"

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but no one has ever built a working SSTO*, and this one is reusable as well. If they can make it work, it would be far more of a step forward in spaceflight than anything Space X has managed (and Space X have managed some bloody impressive stuff).

        * Single Stage To Orbit, ie a single vehicle that can fly all the way into space, without having to drop empty fuel tanks or boosters off along the way

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          Re: pull yer finger out

          "Correct me if I'm wrong, but no one has ever built a working SSTO*,

          True. A number have been proposed, some to high levels of detail.

          "and this one is reusable as well. "

          Virtually all have been proposed as reusable.

          Historically all SSTO's have accepted you'd have to lose payload fraction, usually from the c3% of GTOW to about 1%.

          Since people work out required funding levels from GTOW ("Cost Estimating Relationships") that is a very important secondary metric for anyone proposing an SSTO.

          "it would be far more of a step forward in spaceflight than anything Space X has managed "

          It would.

  3. thomas k

    Hesitant to say ...

    what the first picture reminds me of.

    1. Grikath

      Re: Hesitant to say ...

      Banana!

      There, happy now? :P

  4. Chris Miller

    Someone's been watching

    Thunderbirds

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Someone's been watching

      That was my first thought, but you beat me to it.

      1. SkippyBing

        Re: Someone's been watching

        I'm sure I remember watching or reading something where the inventor of the engine said it was Thunderbirds that had got him in to the whole rocket scientist thing in the first place.

      2. x 7

        Re: Someone's been watching

        different technology

        the Fireflash used a nuclear reactor to heat air passing through what were effectively ramjets. The heat transfer from the reactor to the jets was via Sodium-Potassium alloy - an extremely flammable/water reactive liquid metal which has good thermal conductivity (its used as the primary cooling circuit in nuclear subs)

        Of course that wouldn't give any initial thrust at startup as the air needs to be moving through the jet before you can heat it, so initial takeoff was powered by what were described as "chemical engines" but were presumably solid fuel rockets

        information remembered from TV21's Christmas annuals back in the 1960's, the technical detail was quite surprising given the target audience

        1. x 7

          Re: Someone's been watching

          just thinking about this......anyone know the kind of temperatures that would apply to a system like that? Could the air through the ramjets get hot enough to be converted to plasma?

  5. disorder

    The problem is less the ambition of getting to mars than the cost of doing so. Assuming the concept works, it's an ambitious enough project to engage that. One that the US doesn't really grapple with either. Note Boeing/Lockheed don't even compete on rockets, they conglomerated into United Launch Alliance instead; one of spacex's complaints being they weren't even allowed to bid, at one point. Of course BAE could probably lecture any of them on the conglomerate game; I'm sure it will be messed up, or made sufficiently expensive that there's no ultimate advantage (or like jets in the first place, given away).

    The question is why the government put cash to the project now. It's not a chinese reactor, german rail company or korean/spanish investor and/or water company, and not even a bank. What's their angle?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "or like jets in the first place, given away"

      To be fair, pretty much all British secret tech was passed to the Yanks on the basis that Germany was about to invade and it might be nice if anything we had developed should be passed over somewhere less likely to be used by an insane dictator. Further tech "secrets" developed later were also passed over in part payment for the various help given by the US. In hindsight it does seem like a silly thing to do, but it really was a very different time back then. Although AFAIK we never passed over the Colossus stuff.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Chris G Silver badge

    Leg up

    I love to see British science getting some well deserved help, it's a shame though that they are now going to have to put up with interference from both BAe and the gov.

    What's the deal with taking off from Brussels? Is this going to be for Eurocrat junketts down under?

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Leg up

      If you look to the investment in British aviation from 1945 to 1960 (roughly), when Britain had an edge in aircraft and aero-engine design, it's (nearly) all government (Ministry of Supply) money being used by the companies to get things done.

      There's a few private-funded things going on in the big companies but not much as money was tight.

      For an example, the Westland Westminster heavy lift helicopter. When the government funding was curtailed, Westland sent the loaned Sikorsky rotor/gearbox used in the prototype back to the States rather than pay import duty on it.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "What's the deal with taking off from Brussels?"

      That is the M5 300 seat passenger aircraft project. LAPCAT and LAPCAT II. By Lapcat II their only competitor was the M8 German Kerosene SCRamjet, which seemed to have a lower heating load (if you could make a SCRamjet 10s of metres wide work).

      It was funded under an EU framework agreement. Brussels paid the bill so they get to choose the reference flight path IIRC it was Brussels Canberra.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Uncontained disk failure

    I really hope this project succeeds, however, it will be interesting to see how they manage the higher loading on the engine compared to a "standard" gas turbine.

    If the text of the article is right, the plan is to compress air that is almost already in a liquid state, so there's not much more compressing that can be done before it becomes a liquid and is therefore almost incompressible.

    i.e. the "relatively conventional turbo compressor" is going to be a pretty exotic design, relatively speaking...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Uncontained disk failure

      ...the plan is to cool air until it is almost liquid... then comes the compressor

      1. Martin Budden Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Uncontained disk failure

        Compressing air does tend to warm it up (you can try this yourself with a bicycle pump) hence the need to get it so cold before compressing it.

  9. James 51

    If BAE got 20% for £20 million, did UK Plc get 60% for £60 million?

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      EU rules sayath that UK Plc can't do that.

      Apparently nobody in the government has the intelligence to simply gift a big wad of cash to the Crown Estate and then have them take shares, which can then be sold as an investment at a later point. (100% of the "profits" of the crown estate are remitted to HM Treasury, as per the 1701 act of settlement)

  10. Daggerchild Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    I have no doubt we have some of the greatest inventors. I also have no doubt we have some of the worst managers.

    I fully expect to see this technology flying the Chinese to the moon first, with the IP ending up sold to an American firm as usual.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why is it curved?

    Looking at the first picture, it appears the whole engine has a bit of a curve to it. Anyone know why they did that? Something to do with having the thrust angled down while the intake is horizontal?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why is it curved?

      "Something to do with having the thrust angled down while the intake is horizontal?"

      My thought too. A thin air thing?

      1. Esme

        Re: Why is it curved?

        It's probably to ensure the thrust line goes through the centre of mass, bearing in mind that the engines are attached to wings on the underside of the craft, and thus below the centre of mass. Thrust line not being through centre of mass is Not Good once you're in space (or at such altitude that aerodynamic effects can't keep you stable).

    2. disorder

      Re: Why is it curved?

      The top part was made with ESA funding and is measured in meters, the bottom in yards but if you push hard enough it still fits.

      1. roytrubshaw
        Pint

        Re: Why is it curved?

        "The top part was made with ESA funding and is measured in meters, the bottom in yards but if you push hard enough it still fits."

        Have a pint!

        Though I think it's more likely that it's something to do with slowing down the incoming air so the cooler thing has a chance to work and the turbines don't have to deal with supersonic airflows...

    3. AdamT

      Re: Why is it curved?

      i actually met a few of the Reaction Engine guys at a conference a few years ago and did ask this qustion. Regrettably I don't recall the exact answer but it was along the lines of wanting some down vector to the thrust whilst the airflow was straight (with respect to the fuselage)

    4. Kristaps

      Re: Why is it curved?

      I remember being at the UK Space Conference in Glasgow in 2013 when the first investment of £60m was announced and speaking to some REL folk there. I think it went something like this:

      When in air-breathing mode, it is best if your intake is horizontal. However, once you go high enough, there's not enough atmosphere to give more lift (I guess this is what we count as space where going fast enough for sufficient lift just gives you local circular orbital velocity) so the thrust needs to have a vertical component to take you higher still hence the back of the engine is slightly curved down. I guess all you need to make sure then is that the thrust vector still is on the line through your centre of mass.

  12. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Go for it!

    Simple enough on paper, but Reaction Engines notes: "In air-breathing mode, the air must be compressed to around 140 atmospheres before injection into the combustion chambers which raises its temperature so high that it would melt any known material."

    Why does 'unobtainium' pop into my mind? But by all means, go for it! The possible spin-offs alone would make it woth while.

    1. annodomini2

      Re: Go for it!

      ..which WOULD raise...

      Without the Pre-cooler.

  13. The entire Radio 1 playlist commitee

    An incredible machine but so far all it does is convert money into dreams and hot air.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Boffin

      Ironically the only bit of the design that they've tested so far is the pre-chiller, so it's actually made lots of cold air.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't believe the Government isn't falling over itself to throw money at this project. Not only is it one of the best ideas to come out of this country in several decades it would be a huge PR win to be seen to be investing in home grown engineering and technology - something they get beaten up for not doing on a regular basis. The crazy thing is that it wouldn't even cost that much to find out if it'll work. I'd say start with about half a billion and if it looks like it's working shovel the money in until we are the go to country for getting things into space cheaply.

    I don't think the powers that be understand how much of a win this project will be if it works. The fact that several private companies are developing space launch systems says to me that there's really good money to be made getting stuff into space. It's a tough job though and the company that can do it the cheapest is going to win massively. I suspect whoever makes an engine like sabre will in the end win the race and own the launch market for years.

    1. Yugguy

      Probably because having fantastic ideas but not investing in them is what we do best in the UK

    2. theOtherJT

      Re: I can't believe the Government isn't falling over itself to throw money at this project.

      I've never understood this either, especially from the current government, seeing as how the Conservative party are always on about how wonderful business, capitalism and all that are. I mean, I basically agree with them in broad strokes, but surely if investing in things and making money off them is such a good thing, why are they so reluctant to do it?

      This is clearly a technology worth a fortune. If you own a percentage on the profits from a company that has a patent on the only SStO technology you're on the gravy train for years to come. Why on earth WOULDN'T you want that?

  15. x 7

    £20 million? Peanuts, nowhere near enough

    £20 million might buy you one wing of an F-35. Of just ONE F-35

  16. RosslynDad
    Pint

    Cool Cooling

    The engineering involved in the cooling part is way, erm, cool. Now, with a bit of technology transfer funding I'm happy to investigate the rapid cooling of other stuff, let's call it beer (for UK funding) or white wine (European), on a massive scale. Just doing my bit...

  17. Phil55494
    Black Helicopters

    The wheel goes round

    So BAe are now buying into Reaction Engines which is the follow on of a project that was started 30+ years ago by British Aerospace & Rolls Royce, which when funding stopped the lead engineers continued to work on and started Reaction Engines (including working out how to get round patents they wrote but didn't have the rights to in the new company)...

    I really do hope they've worked out a bunch of the problems from the first time round and that this time they can get an engine that works

    1. spider from mars

      Re: The wheel goes round

      basically yes.

      HOTOL had three main problems.

      1 - they wanted full liquifaction of the air, which meant they ended up using waaay more hydrogen than they could burn. SABRE doesn't cool the air down that much, but even then there's spill-over in air-breathing mode.

      2 - having the engine at the back led to problems as the centre of mass and centre of lift shifted through the flight profile. This is why SKYLON's engines are on nacelles.

      3 - HOTOL had a launch sled which turned out to be a massive pain in the arse. Skylon doesn't.

      Also, there are also advances in materials technology that help the design to close as well,

  18. Camilla Smythe

    Why is it Bent?

    Oh, Yeah Like Hey Men and Women. I was like the graphic designer back when and they said 'Do us one of these. Long with wings in the middle and the usual front and back bits.' So I roughed one up in blue and sent it back for appraisal and they come back and tell me they want it in black and I forgot to put the engines on and like they like want it in four hours with animations 'cause they are going to press' the next day. Hey I'm already on my fifth spliff and now I have a serious deadline so I drop some LSD and go into overdrive so they get the answer back within three and a half hours... I think it was something like that, and they phone me back yammering on about how cool it looks what with being black and the animation stuff and the curved engines and the way they integrate into something or another and I'm like 'curved engines!?' But everything has sort of gone swirly by then until I wake up the next morning with a dry mouth in a pile of vomit next to my bed. Anyway... much... later on in the day when my head feels almost right I check my e-mails and they have published all the marketing literature and I go look at the web site and I'm like 'whoa shit! curved engines. Which crazy Dude came up with that idea? So I potter about for a bit 'cause I'm feeling kind of fragile and later on the Girl Freud comes around with stuff to cook and after special cheese cake we retire to bed, like don't worry I had tidied up the previous. Right... during the farting competition the next morning under the duvet the phone goes off so she gets it then breaks me off mid trump with an elbow in the ear and says it's some Chief Engineering Bloke from Nylon and I'm like 'What?' because although it is my portfolio I haven't done anything to do with Lingerie for ages ever since... well, best not mentioned. So I take the phone and say 'Like Hi, How can I help?' and I end up getting called all bastards under the Sun for about five minutes until this Dude runs out of breath so having reached the 'word in edgeways' period I ask 'What's the problem Dude' and he says 'They're Curved!', he still sounds a bit tetchy. Now I really do not have a clue as to what is going on here so I take my best shot and suggest.. 'Yes. A Woman's legs are kind of curvy which is what makes Nylon such a good encasement material since it conforms delicately but tightly with the form whilst camouflaging the inherent imperfections in the fe-....' Crap!' I thought I was on a roll there but my left kidney has just suffered an assault from the Girl Freud and the Dude on the phone has gone ballistic about Nylons. I am now standing up and he runs out of breath again. I'm slightly worried he might go terminal so I ask. 'Who are you and what is the problem.' There is a long pause and I think I might be lucky and can hang up but then he draws breath and says 'I am the Chief Engineer at Skylon. The Engines are Curved!' There still seems to be a bit of acid in his voice.. Like, now I'm on the case. It's got nothing to do with Lingerie but those curved engine things that they put up on their web site yesterday having babbled on at me about how good they looked so I'm like... 'Well your marketing department thought they were good like how they integrated into things and stuff and I was sort of wondering which Cool Dude came up with the concept but like I did all the stuff they wanted in the specification, you know.. long, two wings, some other bits and a couple of engines... and in black, and they seemed happy. What's the problem?' He's silent for a while and then I hear gentle sobbing interspersed with some sort of repeated 'They're Curved' Mantra. So I take my cue and in order to avoid more kidney disruption do a bit of Yoga and ohming on the floor. Eventually he goes quiet for a bit, sniffs and then asks if we can meet so I'm like OK cool and he drops by and explains stuff. Apparently curved engines are a bad idea but now the 'higher ups' have released the marketing material, which they think is brilliant, he now has to come up with a curved engine which is not going to work. I take the opportunity to suggest he is not 'thinking outside of the box' and he collapses in a fit of giggles. Possibly something to do with the chocolate and bran flake muffins. At this point the Girl Freud interjects and asks if anyone else knows that curved engines don't work so we both collapse in a fit of giggles and then go catatonic in a deep thought phase. Mine appears to last longer, I appear to be more attuned to chocolate and bran flake muffins than our new acquaintance, because when I next reach for a slice of toast he is talking to my Girl Freuds Girl Freud. Thankfully they have already explained that they are monogamous bisexuals and I am just a 'bit of spare' for when the Girl Freud feels like a break so I do not represent a threat to him in a man to man sense. He seems to be good with the concept and, if I am not mistaken, is blatantly flirting with the Girl Freud's Girl Freud. Now, assuming you have suspended your disbelief so far, and at the risk of another elbow in the ear I will not go Deus ex Machina. In as much as I am a visual artist my Girl Freud practices her art in the arty side of literature. She actually gets a bit pissed off when I have to do work shit that involves drawing 'Machines of Destruction' when she could support us with her contributions to 'Mills and Boon'. However I am foolishly concerned about my own independence. However her Girl Freud is also into literature but the darker side of things along with a healthy lashing of Science Fiction and 'the match is made'. My new Engineer friend becomes my Girl Freud's Girl Freud's 'bit of spare' and is quite happy with the arrangement for reasons other than sex and farting under the duvet in the morning. It became quite easy to explain why curved engines are quite good to his lesser colleagues and have them pass on the message to a wider audience and.... I feel an emptiness in my head. A void that is filled with the words 'Wouldn't they look better if they were curved?'

    1. Martin Budden Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Why is it Bent?

      ^ This deserves a CotW award. I'm not sure *which* award...

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: Why is it Bent?

      Hey ¡Bong!, I think we've just located your long lost lovechild!

  19. NanoMeter

    Get ready for the new era of space-jetfighters

    X-Wing here we come!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Get ready for the new era of space-jetfighters

      Spitfires in SPAAAAAACE!!!!!

      (For that proper British authenticity)

  20. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    It's all investment vapourware ...

    The Government are only putting money in to keep an eye on it (they didn't think it would work and pulled the plug on HOTOL many years ago but then fought tooth and nail to not allow the Skylon project to go ahead). BAE will put sticky fingers in as we can't have a small British Company getting all that £60m ... Invest £20m but at a 20% stake you still 'own' £4m of that, plus £12m of the government funding plus 20% of existing Skylon assets so it's a no cost investment for BAE really ... If I was being cynical I'd suggest if you wanted to give £12m to BAE there wouldn't be a much cleaner way ... and there's always the possibility that Skylon will work and could be commercialised.

  21. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Curious ...

    Is the cooling loop a full loss system (which would massively improve flight efficiency due to weight loss) or it the helium recompressed for tank storage and reliquification? Presumably it cannot be efficiently cooled and reliquified in flight in a true closed loop cooling system as you couldn't dissipate the heat ...?

    1. Esme

      Re: Curious ...

      @Andy The Hat

      http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/sabre_howworks.html

  22. Nick Pettefar

    What's the point of a two-hour trip to New York when you have to spend two hours or more in the airport queueing to have your body scanned and your Swiss Army knife confiscated because the blade is 1 mm too long?

  23. Zmodem

    meh,, its would be cheaper and alot faster to to make electro magnetic pulse propulstion drive, and have a 1Mw perpetual generator on, so you can super charge your thrusters in space and accelerate at near light speed, and have a single pulse every 100 light years

    shoot off like 2 rubbish magnets on earth retracting when you push them up to one another and you let go of 1 of them

    all the hardware has already been made, except a 1Mw generator, all the sensors and computer software are already in use on maglev trains

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