http://www.engineeringnews.co.za
  SEARCH
Login
R/€ = 13.85Change: 0.03
R/$ = 10.93Change: 0.05
Au 1231.31 $/ozChange: -0.06
Pt 1248.50 $/ozChange: -1.00
 
 
Note: Search is limited to the most recent 250 articles. Set date range to access earlier articles.
Where? With... When?








Start
 
End
 
 
And must exclude these words...
Close Main Search
Close Main Login
My Profile News Alerts Newsletters Logout Close Main Profile
 
Agriculture   Automotive   Chemicals   Competition Policy   Construction   Defence   Economy   Electricity   Energy   Environment   ICT   Metals   Mining   Science and Technology   Services   Trade   Transport & Logistics   Water  
What's On Press Office Tenders Suppliers Directory Research Jobs Announcements Contact Us
 
 
 
RSS Feed
Article   Comments   Other News   Research   Magazine  
 
 
Jul 27, 2012

Entrepreneurs, engineers of the 21st century seeking to revolutionise access to space

Back
Engineering|Africa|Engines|Lockheed Martin|Orbital|Pipes|Reaction Engines|Sabre|Africa|Britain|South Africa|United Kingdom|United States|GBP|Sabre Power Plant|Carrier Aircraft|Pipes|Precooler Module Containing Networks|Satellite Launch Services|Services|Power|Richard Branson|Skylon|Synergetic Airbreathing Rocket Engine|ESA
Engineering|Africa|Engines|Pipes||Africa||||Pipes|Services|Power|||
engineering|africa-company|engines|lockheed-martin|orbital|pipes|reaction-engines|sabre|africa|britain|south-africa|united-kingdom|united-states|gbp|sabre-power-plant|carrier-aircraft|pipes-industry-term|precooler-module-containing-networks|satellite-launch-services|services|power|richard-branson|skylon|synergetic-airbreathing-rocket-engine|esa
© Reuse this



As I report elsewhere in this edition, Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic company announced at the recent Farnborough International Air Show, in the UK, that they would be offering small satellite launch services, using a rocket now under development, called LauncherOne, that would be dropped from the company’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.

This is not a new concept. US company Orbital has been successfully launching small satellites in its Pegasus rocket, dropped from a converted Lockheed Martin Tristar airliner, for 22 years now.

An even more radical approach is under development in the UK. There, a company called Reaction Engines has been developing its Synergetic Airbreathing Rocket Engine, better known as Sabre, for the past 20 years. This engine would power a spaceplane, which would take off from, and land on, runways like a conventional aircraft.

For takeoff and flight through the lower atmosphere, the Sabre power plant would ingest air and burn the oxygen within that air with liquid hydrogen fuel in the rocket combustion chamber. Once the air becomes too thin to use, the engine would switch to on-board liquid hydrogen. (So the Sabre is a composite jet engine/rocket engine design.) This would reduce the amount of on-board liquid hydrogen needed to launch the craft into orbit by more than 250 t!

The need for extra stages, jettisoned after the fuel has been exhausted, would be eliminated, making the single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane concept practical. Reaction Engines is developing a design for such a spaceplane, which it calls the Skylon. This would be an unmanned craft, capable of lifting 12 t or more of payload into orbit. The European Space Agency (ESA) has con- cluded that, provided the Sabre can be successfully developed, the Skylon concept is practical using today’s technology.

The problem with the Sabre pro- gramme is that it has to overcome huge technological problems. The spaceplane will hit high speeds in the lower atmosphere, with the result that as the air enters the engine intake and is compressed, its temperature will soar to 1 000º C, which would melt the intake and engine. So the air has to be cooled very fast and very deeply before it can enter the compressor. This is done by using a precooler. However, previous precooler designs tended to freeze out the moisture in the air, covering the precooler with a layer of frost and disrupting its operation.

Reaction Engines has developed a precooler module containing networks of very fine pipes which circulate liquid helium. This should drop the temperature of the incoming air to –140º C in just 0.01 seconds! This precooler is now being tested, with some 66% of the programme now concluded. So far, the company reports things are going well. Progress is being monitored and audited by the ESA, at the request of the UK Space Agency. (The ESA has experts in propulsion engineering and technologies, which the UK agency does not.)

Now, Pegasus and Launcher- One can transform the small satellite launch sector, while Sabre/Skylon can completely revolutionise earth-to-orbit operations. Interestingly, both Orbital and Virgin Galactic are entirely private-sector operations. Reaction Engines is also a private-sector company, and only 15% of its funding has come from the UK government – the balance has come from private investors.

Should the precooler pass all its tests, it is quite likely that the British government will provide more funding to further develop the engine – but, again, the bulk will have to come from private sources. Perhaps, more importantly, the British authorities are already working to develop the regulations necessary to allow the operation of spaceplanes in both UK and European airspace.

Britain’s civil space budget is some £300-million but the British civil space industry has brought £9.1-billion into the UK economy since 2010. The global recession has had no discernible impact on the country’s space industry. The UK’s approach to the space industry is for the State to make investments in strategic technology development programmes being undertaken by the country’s space companies (whether locally owned or local subsidiaries of multinational aerospace corporations) to stimulate the development of new technologies. Once the technology is proven, the private sector commercialises and markets it.

Thus, recent State investments worth £40-million stimulated private investments of more than £500-million in the British space industry. To give a specific exam- ple, the UK is giving Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (a British subsidiary of EADS Astrium) £21-million to develop and launch the first of a new design of small radar satellites, called NovoSAR. (The payload will be provided by Astrium UK.) This will open a whole new market for the company, which will be able to provide radar satellites to countries that could not previously acquire this technology.

Americans talk a lot about getting the private sector into space, but it is the British who have been doing it. The ESA is now adopting the British model. Perhaps South Africa should consider doing the same?

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other Science and Technology News
MILL EFFICIENCY Large stainless steel producers are looking for mill concepts offering high capacity and reduced operation costs
While increasing energy costs and the necessity to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions call for more energy efficient cars, trucks, machines and plants, the steel and stainless steel industries have focused on developing new steel grades with higher strength for...
COMPARABLE QUALITY The Italian Welding Institute indicated favourable quality, welding ability and penetration results for the stainless steel MIG wire
Stainless steel metal and inert gas (MIG) welding wire, locally produced by stainless steel bar and wire producer Wire Products Stainless Steel (WPSS) since 2010, was tested by the Italian Welding Institute, in Genova, in the past two months and was found to be...
OPERATIONAL LONGEVITY The most prominent benefit of the 8499/ 8470/ 8477/ 8478 series of stainless steel castors is corrosion resistance
Castor manufacturer Tente Castors South Africa introduced its stainless steel 8499/ 8470/ 8477/ 8478 series of stainless steel castors this year, says company technical manager Steve Thomas. The series comprises swivel, swivel with total lock, fixed and P67 plate...
More
 
 
Latest News
Swedish Ambassador to South Africa Christian Meuwly will next week inaugurate the final roll-out of the new vertical shaft brick kiln (VSBK) at clay brick manufacturer Langkloof Bricks’ facility in Jeffrey’s Bay. The VSBK formed a part of economic, social and...
Hot on the heels of the launch of Rustenburg’s rapid transport system’s brand name and logo last week, a negotiation framework agreement (NFA) has been formally agreed to and signed by the Rustenburg Local Municipality (RLM) and taxi and bus operators affected by the...
The runway at the George Airport, in the Western Cape, has been rehabilitated to improve safety, in terms of run-off and storm water drainage, and the structural capacity of the pavement surface. The scope of work comprised the extension of Runway 11/29, the...
More
 
 
Recent Research Reports
 
 
 
 
This Week's Magazine
Integrated energy and chemical company Sasol has partnered with Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL) professor and founder and CEO of PanAvest Partnership Dr Douglas Boateng to publish a series of books on executive supply chain management aimed at...
MORNÉ DU PLESSIS Increased urgency and burgeoning awareness of the importance of these issues are beginning to change political risks and, thus, State responses to environmental concerns
The World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF’s) 2014 Living Planet Index (LPI) indicates that there has been a 52% decline in vertebrate species since 1970. The Index tracked the trends of 10 000 discrete populations of over 3000 vertebrate species between 1970 and 2010.
Rwanda has joined a number of East African countries seeking to import electricity from Ethiopia as its demand grows. After it became apparent several generation project it is implementing will not come on stream early enough, now plans to import 400 MW from Ethiopia...
Metrorail’s first new passenger train will arrive in November next year, says Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) CEO Lucky Montana. “Next year we will be able to put our hands around the infrastructure and equipment we have been talking about for so long.”
The Competition Commission has launched an investigation into what it says are “price fixing, market division and collusive tendering in the market for the manufacture and supply of automotive components to original equipment manufacturers” (OEMs, or vehicle...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alert Close
Embed Code Close
content
Research Reports Close
Research Reports are a product of the
Research Channel Africa. Reports can be bought individually or you can gain full access to all reports as part of a Research Channel Africa subscription.
Find Out More Buy Report
 
 
Close
Engineering News
Completely Re-Engineered
Experience it now. Click here
*website to launch in a few weeks