BAE Invests in Space Engine Firm Reaction Engines (Gordon Docherty)

The following post was submitted by Gordon Docherty

From BBC news here:

BAE Systems [British defence, security and aerospace company] has bought a 20% stake in a company developing a radical engine that could propel aircraft into space.

BAE is paying £20.6m for the stake in Reaction Engines, which is developing a hybrid rocket/jet engine called SABRE.

Reaction says the technology would allow the launch of satellites into space at a fraction of the current cost and allow passengers to fly anywhere in the world in four hours.

Now, for the rocket phase, RE are going to need lots of hydrogen and oxygen. This, of course, as with all rocket fuels, leads to the question of how to store the hydrogen and oxygen in a safer form. Well, what could be safer than water?

Using water, H2O molecules could be split using LENR to H2 and O and recombined in the rocket engine (or, maybe LENR can provide thrust direct?), while the “unused” water is still available for drinking, washing, feeding plants – with some refueling possible by just scooping the water when in the atmosphere in-flight…

Just one more way in which LENR can fit into the bigger picture to create a market that does not currently exist.

Good for the planet. Good for the economy. Good for humanity. Good for safety.

I’d rather sit on top of 18,000 – 180,000 litres of water being pumped round an aircraft than 180,000 litres of kerosene… and, of course, if you are “burning” water to make water (assuming LENR used to split water molecules to form a rocket-jet exhaust), questions of pollution just “fly out the window” 🙂

Press release from Reaction Engines here:

Gordon Docherty

  • HS61AF91

    I read that some ancient group (Annanuki?) used water to fly through space, and that this was etched into some real old Sumerian tablets. Now THAT would really be History repeating itself.

  • ecatworld

    On a related topic, here’s a different plane –This is a concept plane only at this point:

    This new jet concept could take you from London to New York in 30 minutes

    “As most science lovers will know, scramjet systems work by combusting liquid using oxygen taken from the atmosphere passing through the aircraft. This means that, unlike traditional propulsion systems, the craft doesn’t need to carry any liquid oxygen, so the whole thing becomes a lot lighter, and therefore faster.
    But in order to work properly and compress the incoming oxygen without the need for moving parts, scramjets need to be travelling faster than the speed of sound, at around Mach 4, which is something that no passenger plane has ever achieved – Concorde maxed out at Mach 2.04.”

  • At last!
    The steam powered rocket engine.
    Water is effective and safe way to carry fuel.
    All that is required is sufficient energy to crack it.
    Also water being denser than hydrogen means more thrust.
    ( By that I am assuming a proportion of the exhaust is actual steam)
    The water could be pre-heated before take of to just under boiling point
    and that would assist the energy receipt.

  • Pekka Janhunen

    I talked to the Reaction people at a conference. I think that the Sabre engine might indeed work (or, my expertise isn’t enough to see the problem that might exist) and enable sustained hypersonic travel in the atmosphere e.g. from London to Sydney as they say. But I’m rather sceptical about going to orbit with it, because in that case most of the delta-v must be produced in rocket mode, in which the engine may not be quite optimal because of the rather small diameter of the nozzles.

    Concerning LENR, it would be a tall order to use it in launch vehicles, because the required power density is so large. It’s worth thinking about the problem, but many other applications are easier. On the surfaces of Moon and Mars, in particular, even rudimentary forms of LENR would be quite useful. The Moon has its 2-week long nights and Mars has its winters. Surviving those is hard to achieve without some form of nuclear energy or at least heating. RTGs of course exist and are sometimes used there, but the cost of the required plutonium isotope is high. And of course LENR would be useful in any mission going approximately beyond Jupiter distance from the sun.

    • GordonDocherty

      Offset against smaller nozzles – i.e. possibly less thrust – is the great reduction in weight (think Saturn V first stage plus second). Also, smaller nozzles are (slightly) easier to direct. Of course, it won’t match an F1 engine, but then maybe it doesn’t have to…

      to quote from :

      “The Saturn V rocket’s first stage carries 203,400 gallons (770,000 liters) of kerosene fuel and 318,000 gallons (1.2 million liters) of liquid oxygen needed for combustion. At liftoff, the stage’s five F-1 rocket engines ignite and produce 7.5 million pounds of thrust. The weight of the first stage was 2,280 tonnes at launch

      At an altitude of 42 miles (67 kilometers), the F-1 engines shut down. Explosive bolts fire, and the severed first stage falls into the Atlantic Ocean.

      The second stage carries 260,000 gallons (984,000 liters) of liquid hydrogen fuel and 80,000 gallons (303,000 liters) of liquid oxygen. The weight of the second stage was 481 tonnes at launch

      A few seconds after the second stage’s five rocket engines are ignited, an interstage skirt at the bottom end of the second stage is jettisoned. Shortly after that, the emergency escape rocket on top of the vehicle, only usable below 19 miles altitude, is fired off and discarded.

      At 9 minutes and 9 seconds after launch, the second stage is discarded and the third stage’s rocket engine is fired. The third stage carries 66,700 gallons (252,750 liters) of liquid hydrogen fuel and 19,359 gallons (73,280 liters) of liquid oxygen.

      So, that’s 2,761 tonnes now no longer needed.

      • snowvoardphil

        I wonder why kerosene and not liquid hydrogen in the first stage ?

    • pg

      Pekka what do you think a realistic time frame to commercial flights would be?