In this Issue:
UK consortium attracted to ITER Magnets
ITER 'Industry Surgeries' planned
ILO meeting briefed on F4E 2009 procurements
MAST plans for 2009
Culham Innovation Centre
Reaction Engines wins Euro 1 million contract with ESA
Exhibitions and Events
Fusion Tech Expo - 25-27 November 2009, Milan, Italy
Engineer Profile - Dr Carlo Damiani, Remote Handling Group Leader, Fusion For Energy

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  Issue 13 - March 2009 Fusion Business

Culham Innovation Centre

Reaction Engines wins Euro 1 million contract with ESA
Culham Innovation Centre-based Reaction Engines Ltd (REL) has been awarded a Euro 1 million contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to demonstrate the core technologies for the SABRE air-breathing rocket engine that will eventually power the SKYLON spaceplane. The company will build on its knowledge acquired through UKAEA's technical support package to develop the engine's pre-cooler.

SABRE engine model

The SKYLON spaceplane is a reusable spaceplane that can take off from a conventional aircraft runway, carry over twelve tonnes to orbit and then return to land on the same runway.

Alan Bond, Managing Director of REL, said: “Traditional throw-away rockets costing more than a $100 million per launch are a drag on the growth of this market. The Holy Grail to transform the economics of getting into space is to use a truly reusable spaceplane capable of taking off from an airport and climbing directly into space, delivering its satellite payload and automatically returning safely to Earth.

“Years of planning and research by REL on the SKYLON vehicle and its unique SABRE engine mean that we have an inside track on realising this goal. SKYLON could reduce the cost of getting into space by a factor of ten and improve the reliability by a thousand.”

The two and half year demonstration programme has the objective of removing all the outstanding technical concerns on the SABRE engine. This will pave the way to a full engine development programme as part of the overall development of SKYLON.

The SABRE is a hybrid engine that can “breathe” air when in the atmosphere, like a jet engine, and become a rocket engine when in space. In air-breathing mode air is first cooled by a revolutionary heat exchanger pre-cooler before being compressed and fed to the rocket engine to be burned with hydrogen fuel. When in rocket mode the hydrogen is burnt with liquid oxygen.

The key technical challenge for REL is to take the pre-cooler from the laboratory to the industrial scale for testing on the company's Viper B9 engine test facility at Culham.  It will produce 26 heat exchange modules over the next 12 months.

“Over the years the UKAEA's Technical Support Package has allowed us to build up considerable expertise within REL on brazing and tube manipulation techniques. It is still an important part of our development work. Recently we've used it to assist us with wind tunnel diagnostics data acquisition and, all being well, it will enable us to overcome any technical problems we may encounter as we scale up and test the pre-cooler during the course of the demonstration programme,” said Alan Bond.
For more information please contact Alan Bond on 01865 408314 or email or visit


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