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SABRE air-breathing rocket engine hypersonic precooler test successful

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Reaction Engines has successfully tested its precooler at airflow temperature conditions representing Mach 5, marking a significant milestone in the development of its SABRE engine.

The firm say that the precooler heat exchanger is a vital component of the revolutionary SABRE air-breathing rocket engine, on which Reaction Engines is working in collaboration with companies including BAE Systems, and is an enabling technology for other precooled propulsion systems and a range of commercial applications.

“This ground-based test achieved the highest temperature objective of the Company’s HTX testing programme and took place at its specially constructed unique facility at the Colorado Air and Space Port, United States.

During the latest series of tests, Reaction Engines’ unique precooler successfully quenched airflow temperatures in excess of 1,000°C (~1,800°F) in less than 1/20th of a second. The tests demonstrated the precooler’s ability to successfully cool airflow at speeds significantly in excess of the operational limit of any jet-engine powered aircraft in history. Mach 5 is more than twice as fast as the cruising speed of Concorde and over 50% faster than the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft – the world’s fastest jet-engine powered aircraft.”

This most recent test builds upon the previous HTX hot tests undertaken in April which saw the precooler successfully operate at temperatures of 420ᵒC (~788ᵒF) – matching the thermal conditions corresponding to Mach 3.3 flight.

Mark Thomas, Chief Executive, Reaction Engines, said:

“This is a major moment in the development of a breakthrough aerospace technology which has seen Reaction Engines’ precooler tested at Mach 5 airflow temperature conditions, smashing through previous achievements at Mach 3.3 temperatures and paving the way for hypersonic flight. In addition to its use in our SABRE class of air breathing rocket engines, there are numerous exciting commercial applications for our precooler technology, which delivers world-leading heat transfer capabilities at low weight and compact size, and we are seeing significant interest from a range of potential customers and technology partners.”

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