Skylon: ESA clears the SABRE rocket-jet engine hybrid

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by YellowSubmarine, Nov 29, 2012.

  1. YellowSubmarine

    YellowSubmarine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    There's a thread about this here, but I though it was too old to be of relevance.

    I didn't know about this ESA-funded project's existence until just now. With the results from the preliminary tests today ESA approved the completion of its first full prototype.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/29/esa_sabre_clearance/

    I don't know how feasible is this, or if it is a good approach, and my gut tells me to rely on good ol' rockets, but this just looks amazing. Looking at the spacecraft proposed design as well as the engine schematics, it resembles exactly what I'd make up as my dream spacecraft engine and spacecraft.

    Besides, it should be our goal to explore all possibilities for reaching space, so even if this turns out to be less promising than it looks, this is still great news for space flight research.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skylon_(spacecraft)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SABRE_(rocket_engine)

    Yay!
     
  2. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    If it works, it'll be great. Heck, the heat exchanger alone is a pretty handy device. They still have a lot of hurdles on the way to a functioning spaceplane. I'll be much more enthusiastic when they actually test a complete engine.
     
  3. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    My concern, which applies primarily to high-speed long-distance flight, is that the heat exchanger's walls are extremely thin (20 or 30 microns), and the upper atmosphere does contain particulates like organic matter and sand grains blown up from the surface (sand from the Sahara blows all around the world), and on the way to reaching the upper atmosphere a plane flies through dust, bugs, and birds. It will take some flight hours to see if this is a problem, and if so how often, and whether the Sabre engine will be extremely sensitive to foreign object damage.

    Since the heat exchanger has almost no mass, it also has almost no inherent thermal mass, so if it fails the compressor inlet temperature will probably rise much faster than the engine can be shut down, leading to very bad things, which might be compounded if the heat exchanger fails structurally and gets sucked into the compressor.

    For spaceflight this probably isn't as much of a concern because flights would be infrequent (compared to an airliner), not stay in high-speed airbreathing mode very long, and the runway can be treated almost like a clean room. For passenger flight it's a potential issue. I'm hoping they tested the heatsink against all kinds of abusive impacts (commercial aircraft engines are tested with a chicken cannon, which is entertaining to watch).

    If it does turn out to be an issue there are ways to reconfigure the inlet airstream so heavy objects keep going straight past the heat exchanger, which they've already done in part with the ramjet bypass air. It could be that the only problem is that during ground operations, when there really isn't any bypass airflow, a lot of the tubes will get jammed with bug parts, which doesn't sound too bad.
     
  4. Herkimer Jitty

    Herkimer Jitty Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The Skylon was created by man.

    It evolved.

    It rebelled.

    And it has a flightplan.
     
  5. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    Skylon, unholy child of Skynet and Cylon.
     
  6. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Mach 5.5 is what London to New York in 90 minutes.

    (Curiously this announcement comes shortly after the UK announced it was going to increase it's contribution to ESA)
     
  7. Asbo Zaprudder

    Asbo Zaprudder Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'm wondering how they solve the problem of ice buildup - I have enough problems with my domestic refrigerator.
     
  8. Herkimer Jitty

    Herkimer Jitty Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Gold-titanium alloy. Maybe throw in a bit of hot rod red.
     
  9. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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