(Hat Tip: Skymania News)
Finding an inexpensive and effective way to travel beyond the heavens above has been the quest of humanity since the days of the Wright Brothers.
While some see space elevators as the key, it looks as if the British are placing their faith in air breathing Skylon jets.
(New Scientist) Unlike scramjets, Skylon is designed to run in air-breathing mode directly from launch up to a speed of Mach 5.5. At an altitude of 26 kilometres, the engine would switch to conventional rocket power and use onboard oxygen to propel the plane into space.
"It's a pretty unique concept," says Mark Hempsell, director of future programmes at Reaction Engines. "I think at the moment it's the only realistic way to make aircraft vehicles that go into space."
The design should be sufficient to power a 43-tonne plane that can loft 12 tonnes of payload into low-Earth orbit, about half what the space shuttle can carry, the firm says.
If successful, Skylon jets could not only help England leap frog ahead of the competition but also make space affordable for all.
While the Skylon alone will not help humanity become a space faring species, it may reduce the overall cost of traveling beyond the sky, making it easier for our species to construct orbital space stations (and perhaps even a modified space elevator, LockHeed style!).