Fylde plane maker BAE Systems has taken a 20 per cent stake in a company to jointly develop a jet and rocket engine that is capable of launching aircraft into space.
The firm, which employs 10,000 people in Lancashire, has announced a strategic investment in Reaction Engines Ltd.
The deal will accelerate Reaction Engines’ development of SABRE – a new aerospace engine class that combines both jet and rocket technologies.
BAE Systems will invest £20.6 m in Reaction Engines and its experts will work closely with the company on the engine’s development.
The move is seen as confirmation that BAE Systems is looking to the future beyond the Typhoon Eurofighter and its futuristic Taranis unmanned aircraft.
BAE bosses said today the engine had “significant future potential”.
Nigel Whitehead, group managing director for programmes and support, said: “Reaction Engines is a highly innovative UK company and our collaboration gives BAE Systems a strategic interest in a breakthrough air and space technology with significant future potential.
“Our partnership with Reaction Engines is part of our sustained commitment to investing in and developing prospective emerging technologies.”
Reaction Engines is a privately held company based in Oxfordshire developing the technologies needed for an advanced combined cycle air-breathing rocket engine called SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine).
This new class of aerospace engine is designed to enable aircraft to operate from standstill to speeds of over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere. SABRE can then transition to a rocket mode of operation, allowing spaceflight at speeds up to orbital velocity, equivalent to twenty five times the speed of sound.
The UK Government is expected to confirm grant funding of £60m for Reaction Engines to further SABRE’s development towards a ground based test engine and to investigate its applications for space access vehicles.
Mark Thomas, Managing Director, Reaction Engines Limited said: “BAE Systems brings industry leading capabilities in programme delivery and wider engineering systems integration that will accelerate the development of SABRE as a new engine class and its vehicle applications.”