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The SABRE engine - powering future space access

Thursday 17th March 2016 @ 19:00

Non-Member: £12.00 ; Staff: £5.00 ; Student: £3.00


Dr Robert Bond, Corporate Programmes Director of Reaction Engines, Imperial Alumnus

The revolutionary SABRE air-breathing rocket engine, has the potential to transform access to Space. This lecture will explore the unique characteristics of the SABRE engine and the prospects it offers for a single-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle with aircraft-like operation.

SABRE is at heart a rocket engine designed to power aircraft directly into space (single-stage to orbit) to allow reliable, responsive and cost effective space access, and in a different configuration to allow aircraft to cruise at high speeds (five times the speed of sound) within the atmosphere.

In the past, attempts to design single stage to orbit propulsion systems have been unsuccessful largely due to the weight of an on-board oxidiser such as liquid oxygen, needed by conventional rocket engines. One possible solution to reduce the quantity of on-board oxidizer required is by using oxygen already present in the atmosphere in the combustion process just like an ordinary jet engine. This weight saving would enable the transition from single-use multi-stage launch vehicles to multi-use single stage launch vehicles.

SABRE is the first engine to achieve this goal by operating in two rocket modes: initially in air-breathing mode and subsequently in conventional rocket mode:
•    Air breathing mode - the rocket engine sucks in atmospheric air as a source of oxygen (as in a typical jet engine) to burn with its liquid hydrogen fuel in the rocket combustion chamber
•    Conventional rocket mode - the engine is above the atmosphere and transitions to using conventional on-board liquid oxygen.

In both modes the thrust is generated using the rocket combustion chamber and nozzles. This is made possible through a synthesis of elements from rocket and gas turbine technology.
 
This approach enables SABRE-powered vehicles to save carrying over 250 tons of on-board oxidant on their way to orbit, and removes the necessity for massive throw-away first stages that are jettisoned once the oxidant they contain has been used up, allowing the development of the first fully re-usable space access vehicles such as SKYLON.

Though SABRE engines utilise many existing rocket and jet engine technologies, two key areas new to aerospace had to be addressed: ultra-lightweight heat exchangers and frost control. REL has focused primarily on developing these new technologies and the advanced manufacturing techniques required for their commercialisation.

Dr Bond has an extensive background with the UK Atomic Energy Authority where he worked on the development of nuclear fusion and advanced spacecraft power and propulsion technologies, and with AEA Technology as a Project Manager responsible for the development of leading-edge space optical instruments and lithium-ion battery systems for European and US spacecraft.

He was appointed to the Board of Reaction Engines Ltd. in 2008 as Corporate Programmes Director.

Optionally followed by supper (this can be booked on the event booking form).
After the lecture a Friends' Table has been reserved at a local restaurant to entertain the speaker and for any of the audience who would like to join us to continue the evening's discussion. A two-course fixed price supper is served including wine, coffee and service charge.
Or if you have already booked for the event and now want to join us for supper Book Supper now

Venue: SAF Building, Imperial College London

Campus Map reference 33
on the Imperial College London Map