World's first air-breathing rocket
BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, ENGLAND — The European Space Agency is teaming up with the U.K. Space Agency and U.K. aerospace manufacturer, Reaction Engines, to build the first rocket engine capable of feeding on atmospheric oxygen.
The European Space Agency has approved testing for the first partially oxygen fueled rocket called the Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine, or SABRE, according to a press release.
Its design allows it to reach speeds of up to five times the speed of sound using atmospheric air as fuel.
Once it reaches 25 kilometers in altitude it will switch to rocket fuel.
Having the rocket partially rely on oxygen means it would be lighter and capable of delivering cargo that weighs half the mass of current launchers.
It would also cut down on costs and potentially facilitate higher launch rates.
Testing for the SABRE will begin within the next 18 months at a new facility that is currently being built by Reaction Engines in Westcott, Buckinghamshire.