BAE Systems has made another splash within the aerospace industry by purchasing £20.6 million ($22.6 million) worth of shares in Reaction Engines, an England-based company working on an advanced combined cycle air-breathing rocket engine that could possibly improve hypersonic flight.
Pending approval from Reaction’s shareholders, the purchase would give BAE a 20 percent stake in the company, according to a press release announcing the acquisition Monday. It is also anticipated that the British government will invest £60 million ($66 million) in Reaction, which has named its hybrid rocket/jet engine “Sabre.” Reaction said the sudden influx of capital will help move the project into a development and testing phase.
Reaction Engines hopes that the Sabre engine class, which incorporates both jet and rocket technology, will make space travel more economical. Sabre is being designed to give aircraft the ability to reach speeds of over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere after starting from a standstill position on a runway. After reaching those speeds, the engine would turn to “rocket mode”, which would bring the spacecraft to speeds up to orbital velocity, which is 25 times the speed of sound.
BAE Systems won’t be sitting on the sidelines during the project, as both groups plan on a working partnership which would take advantage of BAE’s experience with aerospace technology and project management. Both groups will work to bring the project toward the demonstration of a ground base engine, a step that Reaction said would be “a key milestone in the development of the technology.” Under the agreed-upon terms, BAE would begin the partnership as a preferred supplier for certain aspects of the project. The company would also have representation on Reaction Engines’ board.
“This investment by BAE Systems reflects the strength of British engineering and technology and our ambitions as a leading space nation,” said Jo Johnson MP, British minister for Universities and Science. “I am sure that this partnership will strengthen both organizations – helping to create more jobs in the UK’s growing space sector and ultimately to make the SABRE engine a reality.”
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense