Skylon reusable spaceplane received a flattering expert assessment
In orbit directly from the airfield, in one step, with minimal cost - these are the goals of the project, which ripens in the UK. A lot of steps will be required to implement it, but the other day the European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed that there are no technical mistakes and constructive obstacles here.
In continuation of its support for the Reaction Engines project and at the request of the UK space agency, ESA conducted an expert assessment of the documentation for the Skylon reusable space plan.
The capacity of the Skylon shuttle when launching satellites into low orbit should be 12-15 tons. In the future, the authors of the project dream, this device will be able to participate in the delivery of cargo to orbital bases. And the latter, they say, will serve as platforms for the assembly of large interplanetary ships, for example, for the Martian mission (illustrations of Reaction Engines).
According to the BBC, experts have not found any constructive and theoretical overlays that could destroy the plan. The next stage of work is ground tests of individual elements, and then full-function prototypes of Saber multimode engines for Skylon.
These innovative units - the key to the project, which swung at something grand. Skylon should take off from the usual airfield strip, like an airplane, and at the initial stage accelerate using oxygen from the atmosphere (hydrogen will be the fuel). Only upon reaching speed in 5,5 M and altitude in 26 kilometers the device will switch to oxygen supply from its own tanks to go into orbit.
Sit "Skylon" will also be in an airplane. Thus, the British space plan should not only go into space without the use of accelerating stages, external accelerators or discharged fuel tanks, but also carry out the entire flight using the same engine (in the amount of two pieces) at all stages, starting with taxiing airfield and ending with the orbital segment.
The main elements of the hybrid multimode aerospace engine Saber (illustration Reaction Engines).
A critical element of the most universal engine is the heat exchanger, which for the hundredth split of a second cools incoming air on hypersound from 1000 degrees Celsius to minus 130 degrees.
Reaction Engines has some kind of “secret technology” that allows you to avoid the appearance of ice crystals that can destroy the heat exchanger with such high-speed cooling of the air. ESA employees observed the work of the prototype of such a system in the company's laboratory and can confirm that it works.
Prototypes of heat exchangers and a small cryogenic wind tunnel in which the British are testing a tiny piece of such a device. A full-size heat exchanger will weigh more than a ton and will be able to bleed 400 megawatts of heat from flowing air as the flow moves at 5 sound speeds and more (photos of the Reaction Engines).
This summer, the British intend to test on the stand an enlarged version of the heat exchanger in combination with a conventional jet engine. In the future, Reaction Engines plans to build a complete version of Saber and test it on the ground, with a demonstration of the transition between the airborne and purely rocket modes.
The Reaction Engines test database contains jet engines and cryogenic equipment necessary for testing various aspects of the future multi-mode engine (photos of the Reaction Engines).
Such a unique ability will help Skylon deliver cargo into space with minimal cost. But even more interesting is the other, hypothetical version of the spaceplane. If earlier the British were talking more and more about his purely cargo incarnation, now the developers of the developer company are exploring the possibility of converting cars to manned flights.
In fact, the Skylon unit will remain the same; it is simply proposed to insert a habitable module - SPLM (Skylon Payload & Logistics Module) into its cargo compartment. It will be equipped with a docking station compatible with those on the ISS. In various versions, this module can hold from five to forty people, as well as up to three tons of cargo. This will be either the baggage of passengers making space transcontinental flights, or supplies for the International Space Station.
In various ways, the manned compartment may contain different components for accommodating cargo and passengers in varying proportions. If necessary, the device can remain in orbit for a couple of weeks and work as a tourist liner (illustrations of Reaction Engines).
According to the ESA, the device may well be built using modern technologies. True, to create a real spaceplane the British still need to find investment in the region of $ 9-12 billions. But the goal is also tempting - in theory, the Skylon spaceplane should reduce the cost of putting cargo into orbit about 15-50 times.
At the top of the SPLM, designers suggest making portholes. Although the take-off and landing of the Skylon cargo compartment, in which the passenger module is located, will be closed, they can be opened during orbital flight, and the space shuttle itself can be turned backwards so that passengers can admire the Earth (illustrations Reaction Engines ).
The director of Reaction Engines and the main author of Saber engine technology, engineer Alan Bond, does not expect that the state will have the necessary funds. He hopes for private investment.
But then, according to Bond, the government has already expressed its willingness to help the company in another way — to settle the issues of certification of the device, to confirm its compliance with various aspects of international space law, in general, to help introduce the unusual system into operation.
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