UK and European space agencies give a go for Skylon spaceplane

After 30 years of development, the UK and European space agencies have given a go for the Skylon Spaceplane.

The Skylon, which is being developed at the Oxfordshirebased Reaction Engines in the UK, is an unpiloted and reusable spacecraft that can launch into Low Earth Orbit after taking off from a conventional runway.

UK and European space agencies give a go for Skylon spaceplane
Skylon will be capable of delivering payloads of up to 15 tonnes into Low Earth Orbit (LEO, approx. 300km) at about 1/50th of the cost of traditional expendable launch vehicles, such as rockets. SKYLON’s SABRE engines use liquid hydrogen combined with oxygen from the air at altitudes up to 26km and speeds of up to Mach 5, before switching over to on-board liquid oxygen for the final stage of ascent.

Alan Bond, inventor of the SABRE engine and Reaction Engines’ Managing Director, commented: “Space has many things to offer humanity, but the sheer expense of rockets - which have served us well in the past - is inhibiting the growth of commercial activity in space. To take one example, SKYLON promises to cut the cost of launching communication satellites, on which the digital revolution depends, by an order of magnitude. SKYLON will be fully commercial to operate and develop - generat ing jobs and investment for UK plc. We are delighted that this independent report from the UK Space Agency expresses confidence in SKYLON."

Image: Artist's impression of SKYLON in orbit.
Image Credit: Reaction Engines Ltd