I have read a lot about Skylon which is a single stage to orbit concept space plane with a SABRE engine designed by the UK think tank Reaction Engines limited. However, in recent months it seems like the project has stalled. Last year, the key engineer behind the project, Alan Bond, retired which seems to have led to a reduction in activity and media attention for it.

I think the SABRE engine and Skylon project is also interesting because it could potentially provide a concept for a supersonic high altitude airliner with zero emissions if powered by hydrogen. Reaction engines developed the A2 as a result of the research work done on the Skylon project.

Also, Elon Musk has talked recently about an electric supersonic VTOL aircraft which could fly at very high altitude where there is little air resistance. However, it still seems battery energy density is not sufficient to allow this. Such an aircraft would have to be powered by liquid hydrogen or methane in its launch stage like the Skylon and then land. If it were VTOL it would not need the 6km runway which is required by the Skylon.


The new management at Reaction Engines are distancing themselves from the founders insistence on Skylon as the only way forward.

One concept, the Skylon spaceplane, has been “a little bit of a distraction” in the public eye from the company’s engine development
[according to a spokesperson]
The firm is considering “a number” of concepts, and will speak to vehicle developers after testing of Sabre.

The company is very actively developing the SABRE engine, commissioning of the test facilities (TF2) for the high temperature flight scale heat exchanger tests began this summer in Colorado (funded by the USAF) north view

The company is having test facilities built at Westcott (TF1) to test the air-breathing engine.

Alan Bond, at his new company Mirror Quark, is working on an "electric plane", pinning his hopes on someone making lightweight, high-power inertial electrostatic confinement fusion a thing in order to produce an electric launch vehicle.

Alan Bond's Discus

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    $\begingroup$ "Electric plane" doesn't really describe it. He apparently wants to build a 15 t flying saucer propelled by plasma thrusters powered by a 1 gigawatt inertially confined fusion reactor that produces 155 MW of x-rays and 7 MW of gamma radiation. epic-src.eu/wp-content/uploads/1.-Keynote-Speech-Alan-Bond.pdf $\endgroup$ – Christopher James Huff Dec 13 '18 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ he's likened it to the Millenium Falcon @ChristopherJamesHuff, I was perhaps mischievous in calling it an electric plane - in response to Musk's electric plane in the OP - it is, instead, a single-state to anywhere... $\endgroup$ – JCRM Dec 13 '18 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ Is that thing just a torchship? Seems somewhat absurd. $\endgroup$ – ikrase Apr 13 at 1:31
  • $\begingroup$ not really @ikrase, in space it has to use internal propellant stores. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Apr 13 at 1:48
  • $\begingroup$ @JCRM so do most sci-fi torchships. $\endgroup$ – ikrase Apr 13 at 2:10

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