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Future Tech: 

Fly from London to Sydney in four hours


No windows, but you could shave 18 hours off your journey to Sydney.

This is the Skylon. It’s capable of flying from London to Sydney – a journey that currently takes around 22 hours with at least one stop needed – in just four hours.

It does this using a ‘Sabre’ engine – a hybrid rocket and jet propulsion system that propels it at speeds of up to 3,800mph (that’s five times the speed of sound). While the Sabre engine isn’t ready for use just yet, it’s on its way. The UK government has just invested £60 million ($93 million) into Reaction Engines, maker of Sabre.

These working planes are at least a decade away, but a full ground-based engine test is planned to take place in 2020.

As well as the government’s grant, Reaction Engines – based at Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire – has had another major boost. British aerospace firm BAE Systems has also bought 20 per cent of the firm for £20.6 million ($32 million). What a day.

BAE and Reaction will form a “working partnership” to work on the demo of the ground-based engine.

Seriously impressive tech

The science behind the engine is seriously impressive. It has to cool an incoming airstream from 1,000 degrees Celsius to -150 degrees in just 1/100th of a second. That’s twice as fast as a jet engine.

Mark Thomas, managing director of Reaction Engines, said in a statement that the news marked an “important landmark in the tradition of Reaction Engines from a company that has been focussed on the research and testing of enabling technologies of the Sabre engine to one that is now focussed on the development and testing of the world’s first Sabre engine.

“BAE Systems brings industry-leading capabilities in program delivery and wider engineering systems integration that will accelerate the development of Sabre as a new engine class and its vehicle applications,” he added.

“This partnership builds on the outstanding technical breakthroughs that Reaction Engines has made and the positive assessments received on the potential of the technology from experts at the European Space Agency and the United States’ Air Force Research Laboratory (‘AFRL’).”

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