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U.K. spaceplane passes technical review

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
London (UPI) May 24, 2011
A proposed British space plane that would function as a rocket but operate from runways like an airliner has passed an important technical review, experts said.

Propulsion experts from the European Space Agency have assessed the proposed Skylon vehicle's engines and declared the proposal technically sound, the BBC reported Tuesday.

"ESA has not identified any critical topics that would prevent a successful development of the engine," they said in their review.

The next step in development of the Skylon should include a ground demonstration of its Sabre engine, a key innovation designed to operate on oxygen from the air like an aircraft jet engine in the early stage of flight before switching to full rocket mode as the vehicle climbs out of the atmosphere.

Skylon's "single-stage-to-orbit" operation and re-usability could substantially reduce the cost of space missions, its backers at a company called Reaction Engines Limited said.

Development of the U.K. space plane concept has been under way for almost 30 years, as an evolution of a concept first put forward by British Aerospace and Rolls Royce in the 1980s.

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