The Skylon reusable space plane takes off from an airport runway, burns atmospheric oxygen, switching to liquid oxygen and hydrogen to hit escape velocity and attain orbit. At least, it will in 10 years.
The plane will be designed to carry 12 tons of payload into orbit and return safely, without having wasted $US100 million worth of throwaway rocket. The company behind this hybrid shuttle is Reaction Engines, which just got a million euros in funding to prove that its “air breathing” Sabre engine can work.
According to the BBC, the key to this engine is a super-cooler, which takes gasses entering the intake at 1000 degrees celsius, and drops them to -130 degrees C in 1/100th of a second, thanks to “arrays of extremely fine piping.” God knows those rocketeers love their piping.
Though not much more is known about Skylon at this point, it’s safe to say we’ll hear more about it and other non-wasteful spaceships in the future. I just hope they keep that Hotblack-Desiato-meets-Naboo-cruiser look. [BBC News]