Skylon Spaceplane: Air-Breathing Rocket To Hit Skies By 2019

An innovative, reusable spaceplane called the Skylon is set to hit the skies within 10 years, aiming to make payload delivery and perhaps even passenger space travel easier and more affordable. The rocket-plane would take-off and land on a traditional runway and use a combination of on-board hydrogen and oxygen taken from the atmosphere to provide thrust.

The project is led by a company called Reaction Engines Limited (REL) in a joint public/private program recently bolstered by a £900K | €1M | $1.3M award by the European Space Agency (ESA). The spaceplane will depend on a unique air-breathing engine called SABRE, that will reduce the weight and running cost of the spacecraft by using atmospheric oxygen in the combustion process.

The Skylon will incorporate a breakthrough heat exchanger pre-cooler, able to cool extremely hot (<1000C/1832F at Mach 5) intake gases to around minus 130C (202F) in a lightning fast 1/100th of a second. The air is then compressed and forced into the rocket combustion chamber where it is mixed with hydrogen, burnt at 3000C (5432F) and expelled with great force through the back.

This is an incredible project that may even lead to rapid intercontinental flights if the numbers are right. It could jeopardize costly space elevator projects too and I must say, would be a very stylish way to get to your space hotel.

If you’re interested in the engineering side of things, be sure to check out the excellent SABRE engine walk-through video at

Reaction Engines and BBC and University of Bristol


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