Rocket engine could cut flying time from UK to Australia to less than 4 hours

An artist's impression shows the Skylon rocket
An artist's impression shows the Skylon rocket
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CRITICAL tests have been completed on a revolutionary rocket engine that could send astronauts into orbit and accelerate aircraft to five times the speed of sound.

The British company heading the Sabre project said it was “the biggest breakthrough… since the invention of the jet engine”.

Engineers at Reaction Engines (REL) designed a system that could cool air entering the engine from more than 1,000C to minus 150C in less than a hundredth of a second – six times faster than the blink of an eye. The engine is specifically aimed at Skylon, a new type of reusable space plane.

Skylon would take off from a runway like a normal aircraft and carry a 15-tonne payload into low Earth orbit.

Sabre engines could also power a new generation of Mach 5 passenger jets, cutting the flying time from the UK to Australia to less than four hours.

Philippa Oldham, head of transport and manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said the technology brings us closer to flights to Sydney lasting a little longer than an on-flight film.