Rolls-Royce announces new partnership with revolutionary rocket engine company

24th August 2020 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

UK-based industrial technology group Rolls-Royce has announced that it has concluded a new strategic partnership agreement with privately-held British company Reaction Engines. The purpose of the partnership agreement is to develop high-speed propulsion systems for aircraft and to apply Reaction Engines’ heat management technology to both civil and military aviation gas turbine and hybrid electrical power plants.

“We have been working closely with Reaction Engines for the past two years, including exploring the potential of high Mach [hypersonic] systems for defence applications, and I am delighted that we are able to strengthen that relationship,” highlighted Rolls-Royce global strategy and business development director Mark Thompson. “Reaction Engines’ thermal management skills, added to our suite of existing technologies and capabilities, will further assist us as we explore opportunities in supersonic and hypersonic aviation.”

“This strategic partnership is about developing market ready applications for Reaction Engines’ technology in next generation engines and is a significant step forward for our technology commercialisation plans,” affirmed Reaction Engines CE Mark Thomas. “Our proprietary heat exchanger technology delivers incredible heat transfer capabilities at extremely low weight and a compact size.”

Rolls-Royce also reported that it had made a further investment into Reaction Engines. “Building on our many decades of innovation, we will also explore the use of Reaction Engines’ technology within our aerospace gas turbines and its potential application in future hybrid-electric propulsion systems, as we look to make flying ever more efficient and sustainable,” reported Thompson.

“We look forward to expanding our international cooperation with Rolls-Royce, a global leader in power systems, to bring to market a range of applications that will transform the performance and efficiency of aircraft engines, enable high-speed – supersonic and hypersonic – flight and support the drive towards more sustainable aviation through innovative new technologies,” stated Thomas. With the support of the UK government, the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency (which is not part of the European Union), Reaction Engines is developing its revolutionary Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (known, for short, as SABRE).    

A key part of the SABRE design is its precooler, itself revolutionary. This serves to incredibly rapidly cool very hot air flowing into the engine at high Mach numbers (Mach 1 is the speed of sound). It successfully passed ground tests last year, cooling air travelling at Mach 5, with a temperature of 1 000 °C, “faster than the blink of a human eye” (in Rolls-Royce’s words). In addition to Rolls-Royce, other investors in Reaction Engines include BAE Systems and Boeing HorizonX. Reaction Engines’ main facility is at Culham, Oxfordshire, in the UK but it also has a facility at Denver, Colorado, in the US, which also works with the US government and industry partners.