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Test site for air-breathing engine in construction

08 May 2017

Construction has begun on a new engine test facility where the first ground based demonstration of the SABRE air-breathing rocket engine will be undertaken.

Westcott rocket engine site (Credit: Reaction Engines)

Reaction Engines began construction in Westcott, Buckinghamshire, UK and it will enable the company to test critical subsystems along with the testing of a SABRE engine core, which will commence in 2020.

The project represents a substantial investment for Reaction Engines, which will consist of a multi-purpose propulsion test stand designed to accommodate various test engine configurations, an assembly building, workshops, offices and control room. The location of workshops and other support facilities alongside the test stand will enable configuration changes to the engine to take place at the site, reducing the down time between testing phases and accelerating the development programme of the SABRE engine.

Mark Thomas, CEO, Reaction Engines said “this is another exciting step forward in development of Reaction Engines’ SABRE engine and a visible demonstration of the UK’s commitment to the programme. I look forward to seeing this unique facility take shape and commencing our core engine testing, which will be a defining moment for aerospace.”

Franco Ongaro, Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality, ESA said “the opening of this new test facility at Westcott Today marks a historical moment for the European Aerospace industry and for the UK research and development in rocket propulsion. This facility will enable the ground test of the SABRE engine cycle, opening the way to the first flight tests, and to a new era. The European Space Agency is proud of this partnership with industry and the UK Space Agency, to which we bring our technical competence, which has supported the SABRE development to this stage, and we are confident, to its future flight success.”

The construction of the SABRE engine test facility is a significant milestone. The company has already successfully undertaken testing of the engine’s pre-cooler and thrust chamber technologies, and will undertake further ground-based high-temperature testing of the pre-cooler early in 2018.

The test facility is located in the Westcott Venture Park, a location with a strong history of rocket propulsion research, having been used to test various UK rocket projects since 1946, including the Blue Streak and Black Arrow programmes. In 2016 the UK Space Agency selected Westcott as the UK’s National Space Propulsion Test Facility and the site is now home to a number of space propulsion and satellite technology companies.

For more information on the SABRE technology, visit the Reaction Engines website.




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