BAE Systems has announced it is investing in Reaction Engines, which develops engines for spacecraft.
BAE will invest £20.6m to acquire 20 per cent of its share capital to accelerate the company’s development of Sabre (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine), a new aerospace engine class that combines both jet and rocket technologies.
Reaction claims that its technology has the potential to revolutionise hypersonic flight and the economics of accessing space.
The engine is designed to enable aircraft to operate from standstill on the runway to speeds of over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere.
It will be designed to transition to a rocket mode of operation during flight, which can allow aircraft to breach the atmosphere and enter spaceflight at speeds up to orbital velocity.
The technology has undergone extensive independent technical assessments which have confirmed its viability and potential vehicle applications.
Mark Thomas, Reaction’s managing director, said: “Today’s announcement represents an important landmark in the transition of Reaction Engines from a company that has been focused on the research and testing of enabling technologies for the Sabre engine to one that is now focused on the development and testing of the world’s first Sabre engine.
“BAE Systems brings industry-leading capabilities in programme delivery and wider engineering systems integration that will accelerate the development of Sabre as a new engine class and its vehicle applications.
“This partnership builds on the outstanding technical breakthroughs that Reaction Engines has made and the positive assessments received on the potential of the technology from experts at the European Space Agency and the United States’ Air Force Research Laboratory.”
The UK government is also expected to confirm grant funding of £60m for Reaction to further development towards a ground-based test engine and continue its investigations into applications for space vehicles.
Jo Johnson MP, science minister, said: “This investment by BAE Systems reflects the strength of British engineering and technology and our ambitions as a leading space nation.
“I am sure that this partnership will strengthen both organisations, helping to create more jobs in the UK’s growing space sector and ultimately to make the Sabre engine a reality.”
BAE Sabre engine infographic