SKYLON is an unpiloted, reusable spaceplane intended to provide inexpensive and reliable access to space. Currently in proof-of-concept phase, the vehicle will take approximately 10 years to develop and will be capable of transporting 12 tonnes of cargo into space. SKYLON will be able to repay its development costs, meet its servicing and operating costs and make profits for its operators whilst being an order of magnitude cheaper to customers than current space transportation systems.
The SKYLON vehicle consists of a slender fuselage containing propellant tankage and payload bay, with delta wings attached midway along the fuselage carrying the SABRE engines in axisymmetric nacelles on the wingtips.
The vehicle takes off and lands horizontally on it's own undercarriage.
The SABRE engines have a dual mode capability. In rocket mode the engine operates as a closed cycle Lox/Lh2 high specific impulse rocket engine. In air-breathing mode (from take-off to Mach 5) the liquid oxygen flow is replaced by atmospheric air, increasing the installed specific impulse 3-6 fold. The airflow is drawn into the engine via a 2 shock axisymmetric intake and is cooled to cryogenic temperatures prior to compression. The hydrogen fuel acts as a heatsink for the closed cycle helium loop before entering the combustion chamber.
For more on SKYLON, visit Reaction Engines SKYLON Pages.