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The vehicle is intended to massively reduce the cost of completing commercial activities in space. Its cost could be around one-fiftieth that of using traditional rockets, according to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).
Skylon will use a Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) to propel it into low Earth orbit. The Sabre design is a combined cycle rocket engine with two modes. This means it uses liquid hydrogen combined with oxygen in the air for propulsion to heights of 26km and speeds below Mach 5, and then switches to on-board liquid oxygen for the final stage of ascent.
"The Sabre engine is not only a key piece of enabling technology for Skylon, but [is] itself an important development with potential worldwide impact," the ESA report said. "The demonstration of the Sabre cycle is the next logical step."
Photo credit: Reaction Engines
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