Passengers can to fly to Australia in four hours (instead of around 23 hours) with the help of a new engine cooling system invented by British scientists to revolutionise space flight.
The new ‘Sabre’ (Synergistic Air-breathing Rocket Engine) cycle air-cooling system engine is capable of cooling the air entering it from 1,000°C to -150°C in one hundredth of a second without the formation of ice, which would block air flow.
This means that a jet engine can operate at much higher power levels safely and reduce flight times, reaching speeds of over 2,000mph. The flight would probably be the cost of a business or first class standard flight.
Because updating standard engines would require the entire engine to be redesigned ‘Sabre’ will only be used for around 10% of flights. The ‘Sabre’ system works because tiny pipes arranged in a swirl and filled with condensed helium extract heat from the air before it enters the engine. This would usually cause the formation of ice, but a special system was invented to prevent this from happening.
The engine was designed with the purpose of revolutionising space flight as it would allow aircraft to fly directly into orbit and back to Earth in only one stage. Current jet engines for space flight are not yet powerful enough for launch straight into space without overheating.
‘Skylon’ is an aircraft that may be developed to use this technology, taking off like a jet engine and burning the oxygen in air (allowing it to carry less weight and therefore have more thrust relative to its weight) until it switches to ‘rocket mode’ and burns its own fuel supply. ‘Skylon’ could fly into orbit in one smooth phase instead of going through several phases of using disposable rockets in flight.
An artist’s impression of Skylon: