• 15 mins Kuwait Greenlights Game-Changing Gas Fields Project After Years of Delay
  • 45 mins Minnesota Begins Public Hearings On Enbridge Line 3 Project
  • 1 hour China Looks To Create National Natural Gas Pipeline Firm
  • 2 hours Total Not In A Rush To Sell Canadian Oil Sands Assets
  • 2 hours DOE Seeks To Boost Usage Of Carbon Capture Tech
  • 3 hours Taxpayers Likely To Pick Up The Growing Tab For DAPL Protests
  • 6 hours WTI At 7-Month High On Supply Optimism, Kurdistan Referendum
  • 12 hours Permian Still Holds 60-70 Billion Barrels Of Recoverable Oil
  • 17 hours Petrobras Creditors Agree To $6.22 Billion Debt Swap
  • 21 hours Cracks Emerge In OPEC-Russia Oil Output Cut Pact
  • 1 day Iran Calls On OPEC To Sway Libya, Nigeria To Join Cut
  • 1 day Chevron To Invest $4B In Permian Production
  • 1 day U.S.-Backed Forces Retake Syrian Conoco Gas Plant From ISIS
  • 1 day Iraq Says Shell May Not Quit Majnoon Oilfield
  • 4 days Nigerian Oil Output Below 1.8 Million BPD Quota
  • 4 days Colorado Landfills Contain Radioactive Substances From Oil Sector
  • 4 days Phillips 66 Partners To Buy Phillips 66 Assets In $2.4B Deal
  • 4 days Japan Court Slams Tepco With Fukushima Damages Bill
  • 4 days Oil Spills From Pipeline After Syria Army Retakes Oil Field From ISIS
  • 4 days Total Joins Chevron In Gulf Of Mexico Development
  • 4 days Goldman Chief Urges Riyadh To Get Vision 2030 Going
  • 4 days OPEC Talks End Without Recommendation On Output Cut Extension
  • 5 days Jamaican Refinery Expansion Stalls Due To Venezuela’s Financial Woes
  • 5 days India In Talks to Acquire 20 Percent Of UAE Oilfield
  • 5 days The Real Cause Of Peak Gasoline Demand
  • 5 days Hundreds Of Vertical Oil Wells Damaged By Horizontal Fracking
  • 5 days Oil Exempt In Fresh Sanctions On North Korea
  • 5 days Sudan, South Sudan Sign Deal To Boost Oil Output
  • 5 days Peruvian Villagers Shut Down 50 Oil Wells In Protest
  • 5 days Bay Area Sues Big Oil For Billions
  • 6 days Lukoil Looks To Sell Italian Refinery As Crimea Sanctions Intensify
  • 6 days Kurdistan’s Biggest Source Of Oil Funds
  • 6 days Oil Prices On Track For Largest Q3 Gain Since 2004
  • 6 days Reliance Plans To Boost Capacity Of World’s Biggest Oil Refinery
  • 6 days Saudi Aramco May Unveil Financials In Early 2018
  • 6 days Has The EIA Been Overestimating Oil Production?
  • 6 days Taiwan Cuts Off Fossil Fuels To North Korea
  • 6 days Clash In Oil-Rich South Sudan Region Kills At Least 25
  • 6 days Lebanon Passes Oil Taxation Law Ahead Of First Licensing Auction
  • 7 days India’s Oil Majors To Lift Borrowing To Cover Dividends, Capex
The Race For The “Holy Grail” Of Renewables

The Race For The “Holy Grail” Of Renewables

Energy storage is becoming an…

Baghdad Asks World To Stop Buying Kurdish Oil

Baghdad Asks World To Stop Buying Kurdish Oil

The Iraqi government has asked…

James Burgess

James Burgess

James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…

More Info

Hybrid Rocket Engine could Revolution Space Travel

Outside of the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire, England, sits a jet engine which engineer Alan Bond claims to be the beginning of the world’s first ever fully reusable spaceship capable of making cheap, reliable, regular trips to low Earth orbit. Bond states that “we’re looking at a revolution in transportation.”

The new spacecraft is referred to as the Skylon by Bond and his fellow engineers at Reaction Engines. It will look similar to the Concorde, take off like a conventional airplane, accelerate to Mach 5.2 in order to leave the atmosphere, and then upon re-entering the atmosphere it slows down and can land on the same runway it launched from.

Skylon
Skylon. (PopSci)

The key to the Skylon is the Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) designed by Bond, a hybrid chemical rocket-jet engine. The Sabre can use oxygen from the air to fuel its engines, rather than needing external liquid oxygen tanks like the traditional space shuttle. This eliminates the need for disposable booster rockets, slashing the launch costs of any missions.

Related article: Syria and Solar Panels

Mark Hempsell, future programs director at Reaction Engines, also explains that the lack of external tanks reduces the turn-around time between missions. “The Skylon could be ready to head back to space within two days of landing,” and cost as little as $10 million per mission. NASA’s space shuttle, on the other hand, took around two months to prepare for launch, and cost $100 million.

The Sklyon is impressive, and has so far attracted $92 million in combined investment from the British government and the European Space Agency (ESA), but further finance may be difficult to find. Reaction Engines intends to turn to public and private investors for the remaining $3.6 billion needed to complete the engine and run test flights within four years. Another $14 billion would be required to build the Skylon craft itself.

The challenge of creating a single-stage-to-orbit spaceship (SSTO) has vexed engineers for decades, but Bond’s idea to use a hybrid engine was the key to the current success. The main problem with using external oxygen in the atmosphere is that “by the time the plane hits Mach 2 or so, the air becomes very hot and extremely difficult to compress,” and finding a way of cooling it without adding extra weight was proving troublesome.

After years of designs and testing they managed to create a system that almost instantaneously cooled the air, allowing the engine to operate at higher speeds.

Related article: Don’t for a Second Imagine We’re Heading for an Era of Renewable Energy

Sabre engine
Reaction Engines explains how the Sabre engine works: Air traveling at Mach 5 enters the engine and passes through a heat exchanger. There, a network of paper-thin metal tubes filled with liquid helium chill the 2,000F air to –238F almost instantly. That chilled air flows into the turbocompressor, then into the thrust chambers, where it’s mixed with liquid hydrogen and ignited to produce thrust for the spacecraft.

Hempsell claims that the Skylon could potentially make 100 flights a year, enabling it to earn back all money spent in R&D and construction within a year. Its reliability and relative cheapness could also allow it to be used for supersonic aviation. Bond says that “it could enable an aircraft to fly anywhere in the world in under four hours.”

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



Join the discussion | Back to homepage

Leave a comment
  • gonzo on September 12 2013 said:
    How do they get rid of the heat from the helium inter-cooler?

Leave a comment

Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News