The U.K.’s Minister for Universities and Science promises to invest £60 million, equivalent to around $91 million, into the Sabre rocket engine development program. The engine can send astronauts into space incredibly quickly, at five times the speed of sound.
The money is intended to move Sabre into the next phase: testing of a full scale prototype. Private cash is also likely to help Reaction Engines, the makers, to finalize their designs.
Sabre is a revolutionary engine based on much earlier Rolls-Royce technology intended for HOTOL, Britain’s unique–but canceled–spaceplane project from the 1980s. Sabre is part rocket engine and part jet engine, and is able to operate both by inhaling oxygen from the atmosphere like a conventional jet and also to burn liquid fuel outside the atmosphere like a traditional rocket.
Reaction Engines has based the design of its Skylon spaceplane on the engine. Skylon’s unique flight path would take it up and out of the atmosphere at high enough speeds that fly from Britain to Australia in just four hours, or to carry a 15-ton payload into orbit at a fraction of the cost of a conventional rocket launch.