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Scientists unveil plans for a

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Scientists this week unveiled images of a brand new type of reusable 'spaceplane' they hope will more than take the place of these orbiters and elevate space tourism to new heights.

Skylon is an unpiloted craft that engineers at UK-based manufacturers Reaction Engines claim will provide both cheap and reliable access to outer space.

The 90-metre-long craft's secret weapon is a hydrogen fuel-powered rocket engine called SABRE (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) and was designed by the company's managing director Alan Bond.

Although it is primarily intended to launch satellites, they say the ship, which will carry 30 to 40 passengers, could even pioneer a new era in space tourism.

Currently 80 per cent of the operation is funded by private equity, with the remainder topped up by public funds, including a

post-37120-0-84153900-1299891637.jpg

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I dunno, how many people are going to be willing to travel in an unmanned spaceplane? I mean I'm sure it's perfectly safe but still..

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Skylon would not be the first un-piloted passenger carrying spacecraft - that honor goes to Soyuz. It, like its sister Progress cargo version, can be flown by ground controllers - and often has been.

SpaceX's Dragon and Orbital Sciences Prometheus will also be able to do this, but for Prometheus it will be SOP. Dragon's textbook flight last December was completely robotic, involving simulated ISS approaches and numerous orbital maneuvers. Came within 1/2 mile of landing on the recovery ships deck.

Skylon is a very popular discussion topic in the space community, primarily because its SABRE engine could usher in 2 Holy Grail's: Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) and Flyback Boosters.

A critical part of the SABRE technology is to be tested this summer: a pre-cooler that would generate liquid oxygen from air taken on during flight. This would drastically reduce the Skylon's launch mass.

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Skylon would not be the first un-piloted passenger carrying spacecraft - that honor goes to Soyuz. It, like its sister Progress cargo version, can be flown by ground controllers - and often has been.

SpaceX's Dragon and Orbital Sciences Prometheus will also be able to do this, but for Prometheus it will be SOP. Dragon's textbook flight last December was completely robotic, involving simulated ISS approaches and numerous orbital maneuvers. Came within 1/2 mile of landing on the recovery ships deck.

Skylon is a very popular discussion topic in the space community, primarily because its SABRE engine could usher in 2 Holy Grail's: Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) and Flyback Boosters.

A critical part of the SABRE technology is to be tested this summer: a pre-cooler that would generate liquid oxygen from air taken on during flight. This would drastically reduce the Skylon's launch mass.

Fascinating :)

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Posted

Why the hell would anyone want to go to space in a Cylinder tube without any way of enjoying the view of space and earth?

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how do you get liquid oxygen out of air? or have i really become this far behind in science and technology...

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I'd probably be ****ting my pants with a manned ship to space, let alone an unmanned one. Boy that would be scary. Sorry folks "voice over radio from earth launch control", unfortunately the computer system has failed and we wont be able to return you to earth. Since you won't be coming back we've taken the liberty to empty your bank accounts to fund our project. Have a good one.

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how do you get liquid oxygen out of air? or have i really become this far behind in science and technology...

Compression. Condenses the gas into a liquid.

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Compression heats a gas. To liquify a gas you need to super-cool it.

You super-cool it by rapid expansion after it enters the SABRE's inlet, then liquify it by running it through a staged heat exchanger that uses ultra-cold liquid helium as a working fluid. This also allows for the separation of oxygen and nitrogen since they liquify at different temperatures and also have different densities. SABRE's innovation is doing this with air traveling at hypersonic speed.

The fuel is liquid hydrogen, and combustion occurs in rocket engines at the rear. This combo is used in the 3 main engines of the shuttle and many upper stages because of its high specific impulse (efficiency) if done right.

Before anyone thinks this is just another lightweight outfit, bear in mind it has backing from the UK govt. and tech help from other European agencies. This because it's got a good chance of being a game-changer.

Sabre-Engine.jpg

sabre_cycle.jpg

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Posted

Clarification: SABRE does not separate nitrogen and oxygen. I was thinking of a different hybrid cycle unit and its 3 AM :p

Still, the supercooling is how its done.

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Posted

oh no Hum you awakened the SABRE beast within Doc...he loves this plane. while i welcome any way of going into orbit and beyond, i personally don't like the aesthetics of it, i'm in love with the Valkyrie shuttle from Avatar, inspired i believe by the X-33. now that was a tough looking spaceplane!

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Posted

Skylon has the aerodynamics. Valkyrie was cool though.

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she was a beauty. but bring on the Skylon, as i always say the more the merrier. i think the shake up in Japan reminds us just how fragile a one-planet civilization really is. plus, correct me if i'm wrong Doc, but there are no earthquakes on Mars...

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Not Earthquakes, Marsquakes ;)

No landers have had seismic gear to date, but high resolution images indicate marsquakes could well be happening. A study a few years ago concluded its core may still be partially molten, it has faults and surface defects along faults that haven't eroded, indicating that they're recent.

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Why the hell would anyone want to go to space in a Cylinder tube without any way of enjoying the view of space and earth?

I'd probably be ****ting my pants with a manned ship to space, let alone an unmanned one. Boy that would be scary. Sorry folks "voice over radio from earth launch control", unfortunately the computer system has failed and we wont be able to return you to earth. Since you won't be coming back we've taken the liberty to empty your bank accounts to fund our project. Have a good one.

This is for cargo, not passengers

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This is for cargo, not passengers

Uhhh....no.

Skylon has been designed to be modular, and one option is s crew/passenger module.

http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/downloads/JBIS_v56_118-126.pdf

Link....

Passenger Module

The SKYLON payload bay is 12.7m long, 4.6m wide and 4.6m high. During normal satellite delivery operations, the bay would carry an interchangeable payload container. When used for passenger transport, an alternative pressurised, self-contained module could readily be fitted between flights. This module would provide a breathable atmosphere and additional life support for 30 or 40 passengers. Under the floor of the cabin, part of the space is needed for life support equipment, with the rest available for passenger baggage and cargo.

Cabin Layout

The central feature of the module is the transfer airlock, used for docking to a space station and for in-orbit transfer between vehicles. Normal ground access is by means of two side doors in the module, which line up with doors in the exterior of the SKYLON fuselage. Passengers would enter and exit using normal airport airbridges.

In case of a ground emergency, e.g. runway overshoot, passengers would exit the cabin through these doors and make their way to the ground by conventional inflatable chutes. The cabin also has two toilet cubicles, operating along the lines of those found on the Russian 'MIR' space station.

>

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Posted

Fascinating stuff. Thanks for keeps us abreast of it all, Doc. :)

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Uhhh....no.

Skylon has been designed to be modular, and one option is s crew/passenger module.

http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/downloads/JBIS_v56_118-126.pdf

Link....

heh, looks like I was wrong then... oh well.

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Posted

Suggest renaming this thread to "Skylon spaceplane updates" or something like it as progress is starting to move.

The target is for Skylon to be operational around 2020.

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New Flight Global article on Skylon highlighting new materials they're using and its aerodynamics.

Also: the team has expanded from just a few core researchers to around 300+.

Flight Global....

Skylon space plane places huge demands on exotic structural materials

Engine technology may be key to realising the Skylon space plane, but its airframe is also critical, and possibly just as ambitious. The 87m (285ft) long design, with 25m wingspan, calls for fuselage and wing load bearing structures made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic with an external shell of a fibre-reinforced ceramic that carries only aerodynamic pressure loads transmitted to the fuselage structure through flexible suspension points.

The shell, only 0.5mm thick and corrugated for stiffness, is free to move under thermal expansion, especially during the latter stages of the aerodynamic ascent and re-entry. Revolutionary materials and structures include silicon carbide reinforced glass ceramics and silicon carbide reinforced titanium struts.

Reaction Engines' lead designers, Alan Bond and Richard Varvill, note with pride that their Skylon design has now had its re-entry aerothermodynamics modelled and tested using computational fluid dynamics by DLR, the German space agency. The modelling, they claim, proves the craft can re-enter, though it may need cooling along the hotter parts of its angular design.

So different is the Skylon shape compared to its blunter predecessors - NASA's Space Shuttle and the Soviet Buran - that Bond goes so far as to claim the DLR re-entry studies "have shown the hypersonic aerodynamics textbooks need to be rewritten".

skylon3.jpg

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Posted

thanks for the heads up Doc! looking good and of course rooting for them, although the unmanned part puts me off a little...plus every time i hear the name Skylon i think "by your command". that should be its default computer voice.

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It's not just unmanned - the central mission module can be swapped out to carry cargo, crew, or both.

IIRC if configured for all crew it could hold about 40 with an airlock and docking system. No space destionations for that many folks yet, but Skylon could do it.

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Posted

wow that is impressive! then i'm very happy development is proceeding. the timeline holds. by the 2030s we WILL be a proper spacefaring species!

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