Reaction Engines Limited

Reaction Engines Limited
Reaction Engines Limited
Type Private
Industry Aerospace
Founded 1989
Headquarters Oxfordshire, England
Key people Alan Bond (founder)
Products Orbital spaceplanes, airliners

Reaction Engines Limited (REL) is a British aerospace company based in Oxfordshire, England.[1]


History & personnel

Reaction Engines was founded in 1989 by Alan Bond (lead engineer on the British Interplanetary Society's Project Daedalus) and Richard Varvill and John Scott-Scott (the two principal Rolls-Royce engineers from the RB545 engine project). The company conducts research into space propulsion systems, centred around the development of the Skylon re-usable SSTO spaceplane. The three founders worked together on the HOTOL project, funding for which was withdrawn in 1988, largely due to significant technical obstacles.

The division of responsibilities is:

  • Alan Bond - Managing Director and Chief Technical Analyst
  • Richard Varvill - Technical Director and Chief Designer
  • John Scott-Scott - Engineering Director and Chief Development Engineer

Current research


Skylon is a design for a single stage to orbit combined cycle powered orbital spaceplane.


The SABRE engine

Skylon and the SABRE engine by which it will be powered are being developed as a private venture which aims to overcome the obstacles faced by HOTOL.

The company's current research effort is focused on precooler heat exchanger technology, with additional funding gained from the sale of consultancy. The company has also received funding from the EU to investigate applications of its technologies to rapid long-distance passenger transport, under the LAPCAT project.

In February 2009, the European Space Agency announced that it was partially funding work on Skylon's engine to produce a demonstration engine by 2011.[2][3]


The Reaction Engines A2 concept in the upper atmosphere

On February 5, 2008 the company announced it had designed a passenger plane that would be capable of flying, non stop, halfway around the world at hypersonic speed (Mach 5+), the A2, to the concept stage.[4]

The A2's engine, SCIMITAR has precooler technology which is somewhat similar to SABRE but does not have the rocket features, and is optimized for higher efficiency for atmospheric flight.

Advanced studies

Reaction Engines Ltd. is currently also researching about more advanced spaceflight.

Passenger Module for Skylon

Although Skylon is designed to only launch and retrieve satellites, and that is also unmanned, Reaction Engines Ltd. has proposed a passenger module in the payload bay of the Reaction Engines Skylon spaceplane.[5]

The passenger module is sized to fit in the payload bay, and can carry up to 24 passengers and 1 crew. There is an ISS-type docking port and airlock as the central feature. There are two ground entry doors that align with the doors on the side of the Skylon payload bay to allow easy ground access to the cabin. The doors are fitted with conventional inflatable chutes for passengers to escape in case of any ground emergency. There are Space Shuttle-type windows on the roof of the module for passengers to enjoy the view in space. There is also a washroom and hygienic facilities provided in the cabin.

The initial configuration will be fitted with five ejector seats, for four passengers and one crew, rather similar to the first four Space Shuttle spaceflights. Once the passenger module is fully certified, the ejection seats will be removed and there will be 16 upright seats installed for a short stay in space (<14 days) and 4 supine seats for long stay in space (>14 days). An upright seat will also be provided for the crew. There are also life support systems under the cabin floor, equipment bays, and cargo holds.

Orbital Base Station

The Orbital Base Station (OBS) is a concept of a future, expandable space station to serve as an integral part of a future space transportation system and also in the maintenance and construction of future manned Moon and Mars spacecraft.[6]

The construction of the OBS is modular, and assumes the use of the Reaction Engines Skylon in Low Earth Orbit. The structure is based on a cylinder, designed to allow space inside the cylindrical section for the repair of various spacecraft. The cylindrical structure will also provide space for habitation modules with docking ports, manipulator arms, and propellant farms to refuel an interplanetary spacecraft.

Reaction Engines TROY

The Reaction Engines TROY is a concept of a future Manned mission to Mars. The concept has arose to confirm the capability of the Skylon launch vehicle that it can and does enable large human exploration to the Solar System's planets.[7]

The TROY spacecraft will consist of an unmanned Precursor mission, which will consist of an Earth Departure Stage, and a Mars Transfer Stage. There is a habitation module, a storage module, and a propulsion module to be deployed from the spacecraft to land together at a selected site on the Martian surface to form a base. There are also ferry vehicles designed to transfer crew members to and from the base to the orbiting manned spacecraft. There will be three Precursor spacecraft to Mars to set up three bases on the planet to enable maximum exploration of the planet's surface.

50 days after launch, the Earth Departure Stage is brought back to Low Earth Orbit by the Earth's gravity, and the FLUYT space tug will bring the stage back to the Orbital Base Station for construction of the later Manned mission.

The Manned spacecraft will consist of 3 habitation modules, 3 docking ports, and two ferry vehicles. The spacecraft will rotate along the centerline to provide artificial gravity. It will leave Earth with the Earth Departure Stage and transfer to Mars with the Mars Transfer Stage, and rendezvous with the Precursor spacecraft in Martian orbit. The craft will dock together to enable the crew to transfer to the ferry vehicles for descent to the surface at a selected site. The crew, along with the equipped rovers, will spend 14 months to explore the Martian surface. The crew will return to Martian orbit with the ferry vehicle and rendezvous and dock with the orbiting Manned spacecraft. After a detailed inspection of the vehicle, the spacecraft will leave Mars for Earth on the Earth Return Stage. When the craft is captured in a Molniya orbit around Earth, the crew will board a ferry vehicle for transfer to Low Earth Orbit and rendezvous and dock with the waiting Skylon spacecraft for return to Earth.

Construction of the spacecraft will take place at the Orbital Base Station inside the cylindrical structure. Because the spacecraft is of highly modular design, the components will be brought up by the Skylon spacecraft. The rocket engines, fuel and oxidizer tanks, and habitation modules are sized to fit inside the Skylon payload bay, and that the fully assembled craft would also fit inside the cylindrical structure of the OBS.[8]


The FLUYT Orbital Transfer Vehicle is a concept of a future space tug. It has the ability to dock with orbiting spacecraft and move payload in orbit. As it is sized to fit inside the Skylon payload bay, it can be launched from the Skylon and will also be an integral part for the construction of the Orbital Base Station as well as the Reaction Engines TROY and the retrieval of the Earth Departure Stage from the Precursor mission of the TROY mission.[9]


External links

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