This Hypersonic ‘Space Plane’ Can Get From New York to London in One Hour

It can soar at 6400km/h—or five times the speed of sound.

By Rachel Cormack 29/09/2019

What if you could get from New York to London in just an hour? The UK Space Agency recently revealed plans for a high-tech “space plane” that is capable of jetting across the pond at lightning speed—and it could be in the skies as soon as 2030.



Last week, the CEO of the UK Space Agency Graham Turnock announced the UK would be working more closely with Australia in a “world-first Space Bridge” agreement which will focus on delivering a plane—or rocket, really—to shuttle passengers from continent-to-continent in just four hours. While flights from London to the Big Apple will reportedly take a skerrick over 60 minutes.



It’s all courtesy of a new hypersonic engine SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine)—which the scientists at Reaction Engines are currently developing. Fueled by a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, SABRE is capable of powering a plane to Mach 5.4 (6400 km/h) for speedy commercial travel—that’s around five times the speed of sound—or Mach 25 (30,000 km/h) when soaring in space. It’s supposedly greener and cheaper than current air travel, too.

SABRE hypersonic space plane

SABRE Hypersonic Space Plane Courtesy of Reaction Engines

One of the challenges of hypersonic flight is ensuring the engine can withstand the heat—travelling that quickly can cause the engine itself to melt—but SABRE chills the incoming air with tiny tubes of super-cooled helium, and then utilizes that captured heat to power the engine.



“Our pre-cooler takes air that arrives at 1000 degrees centigrade and cools it down to zero in one-twentieth of a second,” Shaun Driscoll, of Reaction Engines, said.

SABRE hypersonic space plane

SABRE Engine Courtesy of Reaction Engines

That’s not just talk, either. Back in April, the Oxfordshire-based firm announced successful tests of a precooler, simulating conditions at Mach 3.3—that’s 50 per cent faster than the supersonic turbojet Concorde, which trekked between New York and Paris in 3.5 hours, but was terminated in 2003 following a catastrophic crash in which 109 people died. It’s also on par with the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest jet aircraft ever made.



Reaction Engines will continue trialling parts, with test flights scheduled to begin in mid-2020 and commercial flights slated for the 2030s. The government has already invested £60 million (around $109 million at current exchange) into SABRE, which has been matched by Rolls Royce, BAE Systems and Boeing.

ADVERTISE WITH US

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay Connected

You may also like.

Embraer Is Testing Self-Flying eVTOLs Over Rio de Janeiro

The tech will lead to air taxis flying themselves as part of urban transport.

By Michael Verdon

12/05/2022

The First Electric Aeroplane That You Can Fast-Charge Is Coming

Diamond Aircraft’s eDA40 can be recharged in about 20 minutes.

By J. George Gorant

06/05/2022

The First Flying-Car Airport Opens In The UK

But you can’t take off just yet.

By Tori Latham

05/05/2022

Furniture Maker RH Has Designed Sleek Private Jets And A Yacht You Can Charter

The upscale home-furnishings company is bringing a trained design eye to both often-overlooked interiors.

By Helena Madden

02/05/2022

Inside The First All-Private Space Mission To The International Space Station

The Ax-1 crew is scheduled to splash down after conducting scientific research aboard the International Space Station for nearly two weeks.

By Michael Verdon

28/04/2022

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe to Robb Report today!

Subscribe today

Stay Connected