SKYLON Space Plane Gets Boost

A revolutionary engine that can turn an aircraft into an orbiting spaceplane has won fresh backing from the British Government.

(Concept art for SKYLON powered by SABRE)

The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, singled out the SABRE project that will power Skylon into space in his 2013 spending review delivered to Parliament.

The hybrid engine - its name stands for Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine - is currently being developed by Reaction Engines, based at Abingdon, near Oxford.

Praising UK inventiveness and historic successes, Mr Osborne said: “Britain was once the place where the future was invented. From the railway to the jet engine to the World Wide Web.* We can be that country again . . . a huge amount of innovation and discovery still goes on.”

The Chancellor’s report pledged to commit to funding high-priority projects, including SABRE, though further details of the investments were not given.

Fans of Robert Heinlein recall the shuttle ships from his 1951 novel Between Planets, which had similar capabilities:

A shuttle ship up from the surface could leave any spot on Venus, rendezvous with the ship in orbit, then land on its port of departure or on any other point having expended a theoretical minimum of fuel. As soon as the Nautilus had parked, such shuttles began to swarm up to her. They were more airplane than spaceship, for, although each was sealed and pressurized to operate outside the atmosphere while making contact with orbiting spaceships, each was winged and was powered with ramjet atmosphere engines as well as with rocket jets. Like frogs, they were adapted to two media.
(Read more about Heinlein's shuttle ships)

Update 08-Jun-2016: Take a look at this entry, the first use of the phrase "space shuttle", in Hell Ship of Space (1940) by Frederic Arnold Kummer, Jr.. End update.

Via SEN News.

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