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Spaceplane Concept Receives Euro Funding

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the space-plane-race dept.

Space 193

draevil writes "BBC News reports that the novel "Skylon" spaceplane design of British firm Reaction Engines has received funding to proceed with its proof-of-concept design for an air-breathing rocket engine. If successful, the Sabre rocket engine will be able to take the Skylon with 12 tonnes of cargo from a runway, to orbit and then back to that runway without the need for disposable components or a piggy-back ride on a larger aircraft. Should the design prove viable, it could see first use within ten years."

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But ... Its british. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926557)

I think the only ones who do this stuff successfully are the Americans.

As an American living in Britain I'm embarrassed that there is no British space program. Perhaps this can be the start of one - but more likely, the European financing will be half-ass or the British government will pull the plug on it somehow.

Re:But ... Its british. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926575)

Well, it's happened before [wikipedia.org] , so I don't see why you wouldn't be right about this one.

Re:But ... Its british. (0, Offtopic)

alexj33 (968322) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926761)

Skylon....

All this *has* happened before, and it will happen again. [scifi.com]

We're frakked.

Re:But ... Its british. (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926587)

I think the only ones who do this stuff successfully are the Americans.

An Australian team has flown a scramjet.

Re:But ... Its british. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26928329)

I think the only ones who do this stuff successfully are the Americans.

An Australian team has flown a scramjet.

For a certain definition of "flown"...as in flown: v. To be propelled toward the ground as payload on a front of a rocket.

Maybe we should stick to saying the Australians have conducted scramjet testing (as have the French, US, Russians, and Japan), including ignition (a big deal) and sustained combustion (a big deal), using scramjets attached to rockets (French, US, Russians, unsure of Japan) crashing into the desert.

An entirely different effort is involved in successfully integrating a scramjet into even a sub-scale vehicle as the entire vehicle outer mold line is influenced by the engine.

Unfortunately, even the Americans have scaled back their scramjet research after the success of X-43A. (Though there are some new programs coming on line soon).

Re:But ... Its british. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26927011)

As everybody knows, the Americans were the first people to put an object and after that a human being into space...

Re:But ... Its british. (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927091)

As everybody knows, the Americans were the first people to put an object and after that a human being into space...

Please, no more veiled hippie references.

Re:But ... Its british. (1)

Proofof. Chaos (1067060) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927197)

I hope you guys are being sarcastic. Yes a lot of hippies put themselves into "space" before USSR or NASA did it for real.

Re:But ... Its british. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26927147)

You forgot your </sarcasm> tag.

Re:But ... Its british. (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 5 years ago | (#26928207)

As an American living in Britain I'm embarrassed that there is no British space program.

There is one, it's called the ESA. Having our own space program would be hideously expensive, it makes more sense to pool resources with a continent.

They are going to a lot of trouble.... (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926561)

...to save a few hundred kilos of oxidiser. On the ground they won't be moving fast enough to scoop oxygen out of the air. In less than a minute they will be too high and fast to use anything from the atmosphere. Once effectively out of the atmosphere most of the work remains to be done so that will have to use stored oxygen.

Re:They are going to a lot of trouble.... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926619)

It does work on the ground. It is not a scramjet. It is a hybrid between a jet engine and a rocket engine. It uses a jet style rotary compressor. The big innovation appears to be very fine control of the liquid hydrogen injectors into the combustion chamber allowing pressurised but gaseous air to be used instead of the liquefied air/oxygen that all previous rocket designs have needed.

Re:They are going to a lot of trouble.... (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927025)

So in theory not only could this plane get itself up into space, but it could refuel itself on the ground as well? I don't see how adding a few onboard air compressors for ground-based refueling would hurt.

The U.S. Marines have been looking for stuff like this so they can get around that pesky 50-mile-high airspace and deploy rapidly anywhere around the world. If it could refuel itself on the ground as well, that "12 tons of cargo" could be used to accomidate more than a few soldiers, armor, built-in countermeasures, etc. Take off, land, complete objective, and take off again after refueling.

Re:They are going to a lot of trouble.... (0, Flamebait)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927163)

And all this, just to kill people. Wow. How far have we come... </sarcasm>

OT: Peace through superior firepower (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927573)

Why the sarcasm? Don't get me wrong. I don't mind at all that you don't approve of killing people. But in the current situation, a more lethal US Marines as part of the US hegemony means less deaths in the long run. If the criteria is solely "killing people is bad", this is a win. And if a spaceplane turns out to be a boondoggle, the anti-US hegemony people get a win.

Re:They are going to a lot of trouble.... (1)

turbotroll (1378271) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927929)

And all this, just to kill people. Wow. How far have we come... </sarcasm>

Indeed, seeing innovative technologies being used for primitive purposes makes me sad indeed. All the technological and scientific development didn't make us more civilized since the times when we used to fight each other with rocks and sticks.

Too bad your remark got marked as a flamebait. I guess that happens when you tell the truth.

Re:They are going to a lot of trouble.... (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927225)

Yeah, the Marine Corps was looking to do this at least 10 years ago, but then it was a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (division-plus sized). They wanted to lift off an entire MEB and set it down anywhere in the world in something like 12 hours (the standing mission is to get a Marine Expeditionary Unit [regiment sized] anywhere in the world in 72 hours, by ship). I think it would probably cost the entire Navy's annual budget in liquid oxygen to lift off all those armored vehicles. A MEB has at least a company of tanks, with each one weighing 72 tons, which is just under the max weight for the highest capacity rocket in existence at the time. Then there's all the LAVs, Hummers (now MRAPs), etc. When I read their plan at the time, I thought, "How the hell do they plan on getting all that weight up, let alone back again?"

Since then, the plan has scaled down to a squad or thereabouts. For that size, I think it would end up being an Army or Navy SOF unit. The big hangup with previous plans had been extraction. Usually, the idea is they walk out or get a C-130 to land, neither of which are palatable to most decision makers. As you say, this could potentially solve that problem. It'll be exciting to see this develop.

Re:They are going to a lot of trouble.... (1)

Proofof. Chaos (1067060) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927315)

I'm just guessing here, but I would think it is basically a turbojet engine with an afterburner (which dumps extra fuel into the exhaust for extra thrust) which has already been used reliably on most fighters for decades, and has archived MACH 3 at very high altitude. But this one starts dumping oxygen into the exhaust as well, when the engine starts to become starved of oxygen. Actually, the major drawback of traditional afterburners is that they are very inefficient because there is not much oxygen left in the exhaust. Adding oxygen would make them more efficient, and theoretically allow them to work even in a vacuum.

Whole ./ lead-in is a crock... (2, Informative)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926629)

The Sabre isn't taking anything into orbit, then, is it...

FTFA..."As the air density falls with altitude the engine eventually switches to a pure rocket propelling Skylon to orbital velocity..."

Re:Whole ./ lead-in is a crock... (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926641)

the engine eventually switches to a pure rocket

The best possible case is that it might be able to use air at mach 7. That is one third of orbital velocity. I don't think the word "eventually" is appropriate in this context. In practice I doubt this engine can be an air breather anywhere near that speed.

Issues in a spaceplane (1, Interesting)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926665)

Ahhh No. The mach numbers become useless when there are a few molecules of air per Sq.Meter.
It switches to feet/second.
However, the what could be a limiting factor for rocket-powered spaceplane could be:
1) Gravity: Or lack of it in space. this will require a toothpaste kinda arrangement that can squeeze fuel into the rocket engines.
2) Fuel: Unlike Saturn or Proton rockets, this is a spaceplane. So the fuel tank cannot be meters long and meters wide. it must be compact like a gasoline tank, yet be able to contain ALL fuel for launch from high-altitudes and return. Compression matters a lot. Oxygen can be compressed but cannot be super-cooled. Probably made into a mushy liquid/gel formation which releases gas when de-compressed.
3) Re-Entry radar and guidance: Unlike the spaceshuttle, the spaceplane is much smaller in size, so it has to depend on both inertial guidance AND GPS. Why? GPS is screwed it needs inertial.

Re:Issues in a spaceplane (3, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926709)

Since it will accelerate all the way to orbit there shouldn't be a problem getting fuel out of the tanks. For burns in orbit a hydrazine based reaction control system should be sufficient.

Liquid oxygen is as compact as oxygen can be made. For fuel, kerosene is more compact than hydrogen.

I don't see an issue with guidance. An iPhone will do a pretty good job of it in this day and age.

BTW I don't think this space plane thing will work but I do think the engines would be great for a high speed military vehicle. Something to get a payload to the target really fast. It could do unpowered semi ballistic lobs as well.

Re:Issues in a spaceplane (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926881)

For Burns in orbit, even compressed air is sufficient to provide thrust.
I assume the spaceplane is launched from the underbelly of a larger Boeing 777, or some traditional fuel planes or even a HUGE blimp.
LOX is compact, true. But storing it as LOX requires a LOT of power for cooling and compression. Costly. You need something slushy at room temperature or 2x atmospheres. Cost is the main problem with LOX.
Guidance, am sorry, but an iPhone won't do. You are talking about Landing on an airstrip from 200 miles away: much farther away than a civil/military aircraft. Accurate guidance is a MUST. And redundant. We are talking about Cruise missile guidance here, not Garmin GPS stuff.
The max the space plane can go to would be NEO. 250-350 miles max. That itself a HUGE improvement over Spaceship One.
Once the cost factor is solved, everything else will fall into place.

Re:Issues in a spaceplane (2, Informative)

Proofof. Chaos (1067060) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927443)

I don't know how old you are, but I'm guessing you weren't born yet in the early 80s, when the shuttle first started flying. Trust me, a modern iPhone would out perform a 4 x 6 x 2ft mainframe from that time. I'm sure that the first shuttle had less computing power than the computer that I'm using right now. And GPS hadn't even started to be implemented yet. Yet our ICBMs could hit targets within a couple hundred yards on the other side of the world.

Re:Issues in a spaceplane (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926945)

3) Re-Entry radar and guidance: Unlike the spaceshuttle, the spaceplane is much smaller in size, so it has to depend on both inertial guidance AND GPS. Why? GPS is screwed it needs inertial.

Your argument makes no sense. Why can't GPS be used? And if you really need inertial, so what? We've been building compact inertial guidance units for decades.

Re:Issues in a spaceplane (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926981)

GPS can be used. But not as the only one. GPS can become corrupt due to satellite problems. Which is why you have backup IGS.
I stated a scenario where GPS is screwed. Safety First.

Re:Issues in a spaceplane (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927123)

Still, having to install INS is not a limiting factor for a spaceplane.

Re:Issues in a spaceplane (1)

Proofof. Chaos (1067060) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927471)

Having a backup is a good idea. But there is no reason to think that it would be difficult, or even inconvenient, to provide that.

Re:Whole ./ lead-in is a crock... (5, Informative)

StevePole (1450559) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926949)

The engine is air breathing up to mach 5.5, it can do this because of a) it's novel pre-cooler design, and b) because unlike other air breathing designs, it doesn't liquefy the oxygen before using it as fuel, it 'merely' takes it to it's vapour point.

After mach 5.5 it operates as a relatively standard rocket engine up to orbital velocity (~mach 25) but by that point it's high enough that it doesn't have to fight through the thick air near the earth's surface so saves a lot of fuel. This increases the percentage of launch weight that can be used for payload.

Re:Whole ./ lead-in is a crock... (1)

drerwk (695572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927983)

b) because unlike other air breathing designs, it doesn't liquefy the oxygen before using it as fuel, it 'merely' takes it to it's vapour point.

Can you point me to a reference describing an air breathing engine that liquefies the incoming air before using it as a fuel? The thermodynamics of that don't sound right to me.

Re:Whole ./ lead-in is a crock... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926657)

Yes, but most of the oxygen is used getting to orbit. The small fuel tanks on the space shuttle itself are sufficient for in-space maneuvering and landing, yet it needs two solid rocket boosters and a huge strap on fuel tank to get up their. Over half of that fuel tank and half of the solid rockets is oxidiser. This is all volume and weight that would not be needed on the Skylon.

The engine is dual mode, like a hybrid car, so if uses atmospheric oxygen and supplements that with stored oxygen as it gets higher, so that when it is in orbit it would run entirely on internal liquid oxygen.

Re:Whole ./ lead-in is a crock... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926663)

If you stay low to scoop more oxygen from the air then you waste fuel fighting drag. In practice it is best to get above the atmosphere as fast as possible.

Re:They are going to a lot of trouble.... (4, Informative)

bpkiwi (1190575) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926711)

a few hundred kilos of oxidiser
The oxidiser weighs a lot. Take the shuttle for instance, at take-off the shuttle proper weighs 109,000 kg, the external LOX tank? 629,340 kg (just the LOX, not the LH2).

On the ground they won't be moving fast enough to scoop oxygen out of the air
"The Sabre engine is essentially a closed cycle rocket engine with an additional precooled turbo-compressor to provide a high pressure air supply to the combustion chamber. This allows operation from zero forward speed on the runway and up to Mach 5.5 in air breathing mode during ascent."

Re:They are going to a lot of trouble.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26927675)

The oxidiser weighs a lot. Take the shuttle for instance, at take-off the shuttle proper weighs 109,000 kg, the external LOX tank? 629,340 kg (just the LOX, not the LH2).

Not only that, but most of the fuel is used to accelerate the rest of the fuel. So if they can get up to Mach 5 using oxygen from the atmosphere they will be way ahead of the game.

Re:They are going to a lot of trouble.... (2, Insightful)

jeroen94704 (542819) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926733)

That would be true for a (sc)ramjet, which has no compressor turbine to suck in oxygen at low speeds. As I understand it, the whole idea of the Sabre engine was that it IS able to suck in atmospheric oxygen, so it doesn't need the LOX it carries until it reaches Mach 5.5.

Re:They are going to a lot of trouble.... (2, Informative)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926827)

They intend for it to take-off and land like a normal aircraft.

That means that at the start of the trip this vehicle will be in a horizontal position accelerating parallel to the ground.

You're better off thinking of it as an aircraft that can fly really high and turn into a space plane, which as a completely different paradigm from the "rocket pointing skywards and going up as fast as possible".

About Time! (3, Insightful)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926563)

..That someone built a spaceplane. Too bad the US is busy cutting NASA budgets to fund a new welfare program.

Strat

Re:About Time! (0)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926597)

..That someone built a spaceplane.

We have a space plane [wikipedia.org] .

(to go with our Horseless Carriages and Digital Cameras.)

Re:About Time! (3, Informative)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926703)

We have a space plane [wikipedia.org].

No, we have a "Space Shuttle" that is launched vertically from a standard-type large rocket launch facility with a monstrously-huge and expensive to build and operate hybrid solid and liquid rocket launch vehicle.

A hybrid spaceplane using both air-breathing and pure rocket propulsion able to take off and land on a runway like an airplane with no Shuttle-type booster rocket system required is a whole other animal.

Strat

Re:About Time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926655)

Cutting NASA Budgets? NASA got an extra billion in the Obama stimulus package.

Re:About Time! (3, Interesting)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926819)

Cutting NASA Budgets? NASA got an extra billion in the Obama stimulus package.

You are correct. However I was thinking at the time I posted about proposed cuts to the manned spaceflight program. I know they haven't been enacted yet or anything (to my knowledge), but it just depresses me that I was born in the '50s and grew up with a vibrant manned spaceflight program and went on to work in aerospace. I was really looking forward to seeing humanity progress to at least moon and Mars habitats before I died, along with all the wealth and progress it would bring the US and the world.

Strat

Re:About Time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26927423)

Wealth and progress my foot, more like HUD housing in space.

Re:About Time! (1)

Tribaal_ch (1192815) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926661)

We already have a welfare system.

Re:About Time! (4, Insightful)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926731)

We already have a welfare system.

We now have a new welfare system for rich bankers, investors, and politicians *plus* the effective cancellation of the widely-lauded Welfare Reform Act signed by former President Clinton for the welfare system we already had.

Strat

Re:About Time! (3, Informative)

Proofof. Chaos (1067060) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927851)

Here here. They don't even blink an eye about handing the bankers billions of dollars. But they can't agree on any spending that would actually benifit our country. OK, its arguable as to whether space exploration is prudent right now. But the Republicans in congress are saying that expanding and repairing our worn out infrastructure is a total waste of money. No, they insist that if we just hand it out to the people who still have money, then magically, it will somehow help those of us who don't. What they are actually doing is called looting. They realize that they have driven us to the verge of collapse, and now they are just trying to horde as much as they can so they can come through the depression ahead of everyone else. They're getting kind of desperate right now because they are realizing that their $5 billion will only be worth $500 million in a few years.

Re:About Time! (4, Insightful)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926831)

I would always favor social welfare over a space plane in this decade. However, the USA are using so much money on their military, so it would be more useful to cut on military expenses for space flight. But first the current president has to cleanup the mess Bush made. BTW. in France and Germany the state is spending most of its money on social/welfare aspects instead of investing too much money in weapons. This is very reasonable because violence can not be stopped by more violence. And I really cannot understand why previous post is moderated insightful. I like space science very much, but I wouldn't trade the well being of my fellow citizens for a space plane.

Re:About Time! (1, Insightful)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927033)

I would always favor social welfare over a space plane in this decade

I believe that having things like the space program not only helps employment, but also brings progress in many many fields that benefit society and help reduce the need for social programs.

BTW. in France and Germany the state is spending most of its money on social/welfare aspects instead of investing too much money in weapons.

France and Germany can afford to do this precisely because the US spends so much on the military and subsidizes & assists Frances' and Germany's defense. Especially with Russia now becoming aggressive again, if the US did not assist in so many ways with helping those countries with defense they would of necessity be spending much, much more on their military.

This is very reasonable because violence can not be stopped by more violence.

This has been demonstrated to be patently false over and over throughout history. Violence and the perceived threat of violence is the only thing that has halted those who would conquer for wealth & power. Diplomacy only ever works if there is credible force to back it up.

As the famous quote goes; "Diplomacy is the art of saying 'good doggy' while looking for a big stick".

I like space science very much, but I wouldn't trade the well being of my fellow citizens for a space plane.

This is not a zero-sum game. A space program can contribute mightily across a wide spectrum to the well-being of a society and its' people, and the societies' long-term wealth and progress.

Strat

Re:About Time! (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927305)

46% of world wide investments in military is required to keep the Russians of the EUs lawn? I don think so not including the money invested by the EU itself. Furthermore German forces have the largest number of tanks in Western Europe and the east side (the evil Russians) have lost most of its conventional potential in the past years. Also countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Baltic states do now belong to the Western military pact. So it would be foolish to attack the West. Also for what reason shall they do so? Attacking their biggest gas and oil customer doest not look like a good idea. And they are not propagating their twisted implementation of communism. They have discontinued the use of that system. Here is an interesting link [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures] It shows that the EU is spending 6 times more money on military than the Russian. And believe me, I live in Europe and I am not frightened by Russian or some terrorists for that matter. However, I agree that a space program is normally contributing to technological development and progress. And it allows the human spirit to thrive. And my argument was not stop the space program, but to stop the stupid military funding. Invest your money in the future not in the protection of access to limited resources, which will be gone anyway. This would also be beneficial for the US. I really think that 700 Billion US$ is really too much. Hey the next player (EU) uses 300 Billion US$ and these two are allies.

Re:About Time! (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927727)

46% of world wide investments in military is required to keep the Russians of the EUs lawn? I don think so not including the money invested by the EU itself. Furthermore German forces have the largest number of tanks in Western Europe and the east side (the evil Russians) have lost most of its conventional potential in the past years. Also countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Baltic states do now belong to the Western military pact. So it would be foolish to attack the West. Also for what reason shall they do so? Attacking their biggest gas and oil customer doest not look like a good idea. And they are not propagating their twisted implementation of communism. They have discontinued the use of that system. Here is an interesting link [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures] It shows that the EU is spending 6 times more money on military than the Russian. And believe me, I live in Europe and I am not frightened by Russian or some terrorists for that matter. However, I agree that a space program is normally contributing to technological development and progress. And it allows the human spirit to thrive. And my argument was not stop the space program, but to stop the stupid military funding. Invest your money in the future not in the protection of access to limited resources, which will be gone anyway. This would also be beneficial for the US. I really think that 700 Billion US$ is really too much. Hey the next player (EU) uses 300 Billion US$ and these two are allies.

First, the list doesn't account for purchasing power parity, which they admit to in the text. The Wiki article also states for example that China's estimate would almost double if adjusted for purchasing power parity. Also as I stated previously, the US by its' military strength and the investment in defense worldwide allows the EU and our other allies to devote far less to defense than they would have to otherwise.

The other thing is that it doesn't account for how the US military expenditure breaks down. A very large part of the expenditure is for bases around the world whose major use is for providing humanitarian emergency relief along with the costs of personnel and equipment, etc for that mission. US military funding also goes towards things like research, DARPA being one example. Core military expenditures for weapons and troops are only a part of the military budget in the US.

Russia may be lagging militarily in conventional forces like tanks etc at the moment, but they are already revitalizing their military capabilities. Witness the recent resuming of Bear bomber flights testing Western defenses. Again, the failure of the list to account for purchasing power parity means that those differences between the EU and Russian numbers may be deceptive. Also as with the US military spending, it's a safe bet that Russia spends far less of its' military budget on non-core military than does the EU.

Russia is also making moves indicative of intentions to re-integrate some of their old satellite states. Oil prices are also falling, so Russia is receiving less and less from the pipeline to the EU. They've already shown a willingness to turn off the pumps to apply pressure which means that they aren't so dependent on the revenue as to allow it to override other interests.

Falling oil prices means that the value of maintaining good relations with the EU and the West is falling, and as they feel the crunch of less and less oil money coming in, they will be under pressure from within to find some way to acquire wealth to keep their people happy. War and other forms of military conflict generate wealth and jobs as well as help keep people distracted from internal problems.

I *am* glad we can fully agree that a vital & ambitious space program is a good thing, and has multiple benefits to society that on the whole far outweigh the investment. :)

Cheers!

Strat

Re:About Time! (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927559)

France and Germany can afford to do this precisely because the US spends so much on the military and subsidizes & assists Frances' and Germany's defense.

The assertion that Europe has the welfare state only because America is covering their defense doesn't entirely hold water. Finland, for example, has never elected to join in a defense pact with the US. Nonetheless, it has built on its own one of the strongest armies in Europe (defense analysts suggest it could hold off another offense by the Russian army) and a fine welfare state matching in most respects its Nordic neighbors.

Re:About Time! (2, Informative)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26928279)

The assertion that Europe has the welfare state only because America is covering their defense..

I never stated that it was the only reason, but it does contribute hugely along with confiscatory levels of taxes and other forms of wealth transference from the people to the government.

Finland, for example, has never elected to join in a defense pact with the US. Nonetheless, it has built on its own one of the strongest armies in Europe (defense analysts suggest it could hold off another offense by the Russian army) and a fine welfare state matching in most respects its Nordic neighbors.

Finland bloodied Soviet Russia's nose in failed invasion attempts previously in 1939 and 1941, and enjoys a natural geographic/terrain advantage over an invasion from the direction of Russia. These previous failed invasions by Russia were extremely costly in every way to Finland and have caused Finland to develop a strong cadre-type military with mandatory full-concription and an extremely-strong sense of independence.

The Fins can fight, and will do so under extreme conditions against massive forces that far outnumber and outgun them, and win! I greatly admire the Finnish people. They are a hardy and pragmatic sort that while having suffered great hardships and losses as a nation, plus living where climate conditions can be harsh & unforgiving, are nonetheless open, generous, and friendly. They're also great people to have at your back as allies if trouble starts.

Finland prides itself on its' citizens' ability and readiness if threatened. Finland being so small in population and area relatively speaking, coupled with full-conscription allows it to use military spending very efficiently compared to other countries. This allows them to have the necessary wealth to spare on social programs that is out of proportion with other countries' size & wealth.

Cheers!

Strat

Re:About Time! (1)

kulakovich (580584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927389)

I would always favor social welfare over a space plane in this decade.

Temporal Penalty: 10 years. Please throw your cell phone in the nearest garbage collection unit, and pick up your Pentium II laptop at the door.

kulakovich

Re:About Time! (2, Insightful)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927681)

...instead of investing too much money in weapons. This is very reasonable because violence can not** be stopped by more violence.

** except in the case of 99.9% of wars, genocides, personal struggles, and all other forms of violence.

Good for them! (4, Insightful)

lee1026 (876806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926581)

While the chances of this thing actually working is very slim, it is a very smart move to fund this sort of thing. At a million euros a pop, you can afford to fund a awful lot of projects that goes no where in order to find the diamond in the rough.

more info (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926601)

There has been some info about them on slashdot a while back http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/01/12/0135200 [slashdot.org]

1 Skylon ~ 12 tonnes ~ 2 (two) Sabre engines (5, Insightful)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926605)

>"...the Sabre rocket engine will be able to take the Skylon with 12 tonnes of cargo..."

That should read "two Sabre rocket engines will be able to take a Skylon with 12 tonnes of cargo..."

That is 13.225 US Short Tons...or approximately 6 tons per engine, if the illustration [reactionengines.co.uk] is any indication.

Not much money for a space plane. But good luck Al (5, Informative)

physburn (1095481) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926607)

Alan Bond [wikipedia.org] has been trying to fund an air breathing space plane since the mid 80s and the HOTOL project. This grant he's just got will allow the research to go on and a few rocket engineering PhD at a couple of UK universities, but its nowhere near the funding needed to build a real space plane. With luck though the technology might grow on, and end up in some space plane for the 2020s.

Space Craft [blogknox.com] Blog feeds

Re:Not much money for a space plane. But good luck (1)

StevePole (1450559) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926873)

The funding is primarily intended to enable them to build and test some of the more novel parts of their sabre engine. For example the pre-cooler design which is necessary to cool the air prior to its use as fuel will be tested in front of a jet engine.

From the press release - http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/pr_19_feb_09.html [reactionengines.co.uk]

"The demonstration programme will look at three key areas in the engine.

The first area, conducted by REL, concerns the revolutionary precooler that cools the incoming air as it enters the engine. During the programme a test precooler will be constructed using the actual module design for the flight engines. This will be tested on the companyâ(TM)s B9 jet engine experimental facility at Culham in Oxfordshire.

The second area is the cooling of the combustion chamber, where the propellants are mixed and burnt producing water vapour at around 3,000oC. The SABRE engine uses the air or liquid oxygen as the cooling fluid â" a key and unusual design feature as most rocket engines use the hydrogen fuel for cooling instead. EADS Astrium and DLR in Germany will be conducting this work using demonstration chambers fired at the DLR Lampoldhausen facility.

The third area, led by the University of Bristol, will explore advanced exhaust nozzles that can adapt to the ambient atmospheric pressure. This follows on from the successful STERN (Static Test of ED Rocket Nozzle) test rocket programme that was conducted last year. As part of the ESA contract a new water cooled chamber will be constructed and test fired."

You're correct, it's not much money for a space plane but it's a good step forward in establishing the viability of the engines.

A million Euros is peanuts (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926611)

Unfortunately the UK has a long history of underfunded research and development projects that fizzle - Blue Streak, anyone? Significantly, the most successful British rocket project of recent years was the car that broke the sound barrier, and Richard Noble and Andy Green are now trying to build one to exceed 1000mph. Significantly, because when Noble was trying to get funding, BAe actually sent a memo around its engineers telling them not to co-operate as the inevitable failure would bring them into disrepute.

Give the money to Noble. He'll use it to train the next generation of advanced engineers on a fun project that will actually go somewhere. Looking at the history to date of US efforts to develop scramjets (and this thing is basically an extended scramjet and therefore even more complex and expensive) a million Euros won't even pay for the project manager's office.

Re:A million Euros is peanuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926815)

Just to be pedantic, Thrust SSC was a Jet powered car. Their next one will have both Rocket and Jet engines.

Re:A million Euros is peanuts (1)

StevePole (1450559) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926921)

This is worth funding above supersonic cars because it is as challenging an engineering project but it has a useful purpose: It aims to commoditize access to space by providing cheaper re-usable access to LEO.

It's also step towards the containerization of space (the introduction of standardized shipping containers made a huge difference to international trade).

p.s. I've been to their office, if that's where their budget's going they got a bad deal on the place.

Re:A million Euros is peanuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26927625)

and this thing is basically an extended scramjet

Did you even read the links? This is no scramjet boy, no scramjet! They're using the hydrogen fuel to pre-cool and liquefy incoming air to use as the oxidiser for a rocket engine.

Re:A million Euros is peanuts (1)

drew (2081) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927723)

Apparently he read the links better than you. They are cooling the incoming air, but they aren't liquefying it. According one of the links, systems like you describe do exist, but typically require too much fuel to be practical. In "air breathing" mode it does appear to be a glorified scramjet.

Either way, he is correct; it is a significantly more complex engine than the scramjets that have been uder development for some time now, and it's cost us a heck of a lot more than a million dollars to get to where we are now on that front.

Re:A million Euros is peanuts (1)

gawdonblue (996454) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927653)

Give the money to Hammond and May, they might just get that Robin Reliant [flixxy.com] into space.

This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (-1, Flamebait)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926691)

First of all, there is no such thing as an "air-breathing rocket engine"!!!

BY DEFINITION a "rocket engine" carries its own oxidizer!!

Something that "breathes" air is a "JET engine"!!!

Jesus Christ! Who thought this shit up? Obviously, somebody who does not even know the difference between a rocket and a jet! And somebody else, just as clueless, is going to fund them to try make a spaceship?

HOW DO I GET IN ON THIS DEAL??? I WANT TO KNOW. I have an inertial drive I can sell them, cheap. Only a couple of billion.

Okay. So in TFA, they later make it clear that this is a hybrid engine. But I am NOT nitpicking. That does not absolve them of guilt. It is still not an "air-breathing rocket engine". It is a hybrid: a jet part of the way, a rocket part of the way. They STILL are not the same things. It is not an "air-breathing rocket engine" any more than a hybrid automobile is an "electricity-eating gasoline engine". They are two different things, doing their different things at completely different times, in different ways.

Somebody teach this journalist something about science.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (2, Informative)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926765)

I think your definition of 'Rocket' is too restrictive. There is such a thing as an Air Augmented Rocket, which has all the characteristices of a rocket except it also uses air as additional propellant mass (not as a fuel) This is not the same as a RamJet. Also, from my understanding a Rocket is a type of Jet - an engine which relies up the dischage of a fluid jet for propulsion.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (0, Troll)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926823)

First, it is not "MY" definition. It is the dictionary definition. Second, routing or compressing air around the engine to use the Bernoulli effect for extra thrust has no bearing on the matter, since air is still not being used for combustion (in a rocket). That *is* what divides rockets and jets.

To put it a different way: the difference between a rocket and a jet (by dictionary definition) is whether the engine uses an internal oxidizer (LOX, hydrogen peroxide, hydrazine), or external oxidizer (air). It matters not one whit to the definition whether it augments its thrust in other ways.

If you really want to "muddy the waters", one definition of "jet" is any moving stream of fluid. But let's face it... that's really not relevant to this discussion. We are discussing the difference between a rocket engine and a jet engine.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927201)

Wow. It has consistently amazed me, here on Slashdot, how often when I cite authority like THE DICTIONARY, I get modded as "Troll" or "Flamebait".

I guess I just tend to expect fewer children here than there really are.

Here is an example, for the disbelievers:

rocket engine
- noun
A reaction engine that produces a thrust due to an exhaust consisting entirely of material, as oxidizer, fuel, and inert matter, that has been carried with the engine in the vehicle it propels, none of the propellant being derived from the medium through which the vehicle moves.

(Note from me: you see how careful they are to describe how the oxidizer is carried with and supplied by the vehicle. Hmmm. You might actually think they were making a point.)

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26927605)

Little hint: it's not what you say but how you say it, you moran.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (2, Insightful)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926767)

You're making a huge deal out of a simple mistake. Who really cares whether they've gotten their terminology wrong?

The actual content of the article is interesting, and I've seen far more stupid mistakes in past articles.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926917)

The reason I raise the issue now is that the same people have made the same mistake in two announcements now, weeks apart, regarding the same project. Both announcements have appeared here on Slashdot. And both made the very same mistake.

If I were someone actually involved in the project, and I believed in it, then after the first announcement I would have contacted whoever it is in the press, and told them to get it straight, because until they do it would make my company look stupid to somebody with technical expertise. The fact that the company behind this obviously does not care about the technical accuracy of its own MAJOR news releases, tells me that these people are lacking a few clues, in one place or another. Which makes me doubt the project as a whole.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (1)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927071)

I do understand your objection, but it would appear that the engine designers themselves are referring to this as an air breathing rocket engine on their site [reactionengines.co.uk] .

Sure they've put a slash in that's been lost somewhere, but I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to name this apparently new kind of hybrid engine as an "air breathing rocket engine", as it would seem to have characteristics described by both sets of adjectives.

Yes it's something of an oxymoron, but there are far more depressing examples of abuse of the English language out there.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927339)

Why should it matter whether the engine designers are describing it incorrectly, or the press is describing it incorrectly? It is still being described incorrectly. And I will ask you to read other enrtries I have made in this thread that prove that they are describing it incorrectly.
I don't care if somebody who designs an internal combustion engine that runs on chicken parts calls it a combustion engine. But if they call it a "nuclear engine" then I will take exception, because that is false. Plain and simple. False.
I don't care if the guys at this company have designed a new kind of rocket engine, or hybrid engine. It is a rocket engine, or it is a hybrid engine. Calling it an "air-breathing rocket engine" is false. Plain and simple. It is contrary to the DEFINITION of "rocket engine".

I might as well write an article for my local newspaper, describing how they have invented a new kind of "mole-shit" engine, and that would be just about as accurate. Which is to say: not.

I agree that there are lots of depressing examples out there but this one is particularly egregious. These people are supposed to be experts in their field. It is rather as though Shaquille O'Neill said "I make my money playing 'Butterfly'", or Neill Armstrong saying he went to the moon on a "Unicorn". SIMPLY FALSE.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927355)

Formatting got screwed up. I was not trying to yell.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926799)

I think it is a way to develop an unmanned hypersonic bomber, without owning up to the fact for most of the development cycle.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927369)

Cool. I want in.

Maybe it's an air-breathing rocket engine? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926825)

The article is light on details, but it sure sounds like it's using a rocket style combustion chamber even when it's pulling the oxidizer in from the atmosphere: I don't know any jet engine that requires you to liquefy the incoming air... not even a scramjet. High speed jet engines are generally all about simplifying the intake.

Re:Maybe it's an air-breathing rocket engine? (2, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926869)

No. The definition is simple. A rocket uses stored oxidizer. A jet uses air. Period.

They are describing a hybrid device, that uses air -- which makes it a jet -- in the lower atmosphere, and a rocket higher up where there is less oxygen. Which is probably good engineering, if they have it halfway right! But the article is shit... because it simply isn't right to call a thing something that it clearly is not. A mammoth was never a kangaroo. Bush never really held to "classical Republican" values. Your ass is not a hole in the ground.

Saying it is an "air-breathing rocket" is (as I mentioned elsewhere) like saying a hybrid automobile is an "electricity-eating gasoline engine". It's not just a vague description, it is just plain false.

Re:Maybe it's an air-breathing rocket engine? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926925)

No. The definition is simple. A rocket uses stored oxidizer. A jet uses air. Period.

That means a prop is a jet engine. Or does that only apply to ducted engines? Is a ducted fan a jet engine? Does a jet-boat actually have a jet engine in it? If you build a closed-intake jet-boat that carried its own oxidizer, would that turn it into a rocket-boat?

Saying it is an "air-breathing rocket" is (as I mentioned elsewhere) like saying a hybrid automobile is an "electricity-eating gasoline engine".

A hybrid automobile has two engines.

Re:Maybe it's an air-breathing rocket engine? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926965)

Jesus Christ. Now you want to bring ANOTHER irrelevancy into the discussion, and call it a valid argument?

I shall not respond to you again. You are trolling.

And by the way: no, a common hybrid automobile does not have two engines. It has one engine, and an electric motor. And even then, you obviously did not get what I was saying.

You are nitpicking, for whatever reason of your own. I don't care, because you have added nothing valid to the discussion. Goodbye.

Re:Maybe it's an air-breathing rocket engine? (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927169)

That means a prop is a jet engine.

On the off chance that this is not a troll:
The air in a prop engine is not an oxidizer, because nothing is burning in the blades. Air goes into the blades and air goes out, as opposed to a jet engine in which air goes in, but spent gases (with little oxygen) under high pressure go out. However, that prop is likely connected to a combustion engine that _does_ use air as an oxidizer. That still doesn't make the prop on the other end of the flywheel into a jet.

Re:Maybe it's an air-breathing rocket engine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926957)

yeah, but who really cares? So what if they got the definition wrong...does joe sixpack notice? I highly doubt it......is it really relevant to the discussion? Not in the slightest.

Nothing to see here, move along...

Re:Maybe it's an air-breathing rocket engine? (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927143)

If it takes the air from the surrounding atmosphere, compresses it and cools it so that it becomes virtually equivalent to liquid oxygen, how is it different from a rocket ?

All they are doing is acquiring some of the LOX as they fly rather than storing it all in a tank before take-off. Stored oxidiser or non stored oxidiser play no part in the actual rocket engine. Is a rocket engine on the launch pad NOT a rocket engine because the LOX tank hasn't been filled yet ? This spaceplane essentially provides its own oxidiser as it flys (in air). The engine functions in almost exactly the same way.

If you had a car with it's own ethanol production plant in the back, would it no longer use an ICE , just because all the petrol wasn't in the tank to start with ?
Think about what you're saying.

From takeoff up to Mach 5, the Skylon's Sabres operate by burning liquid hydrogen fuel with air from their intakes. They aren't ram or scram jets, however: the incoming air is compressed and almost instantly chilled to the point where it is about to liquefy, using a turbocompressor and tremendously powerful freezer kit running on a closed liquid-helium loop. Then the air is fed into the combustion chamber and burned. The heat arising from the super air chilling process is dumped into the liquid hydrogen fuel prior to burning it.

As the Skylon accelerates through Mach 5.5, it will have climbed to such heights that the air is no longer worth scooping. The intakes are shut off and liquid oxygen from the ship's tanks used instead, as the Sabres become relatively normal liquid fuelled rocket engines.

Re:Maybe it's an air-breathing rocket engine? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927535)

Please see the definition of "rocket engine" that I posted verbatim from the dictionary, elsewhere in this thread.

A rocket engine, by definition, carries its own oxidizer, and does NOT obtain that oxidizer (or fuel) from the medium through with it travels.

Is that clear? A "rocket" is entirely self-contained. If it uses materials picked up from outside or anywhere else, it is not a rocket. This is a very SIMPLE concept. I do not see why people have kept trying to complicate it.

Re:Maybe it's an air-breathing rocket engine? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927685)

I do apologize if I seem to be rather hard-assed about this, but a thing is what it is, and people here have (very strangely) been trying to get me to admit otherwise. My television is not a goose. My dog is not a cat. Tomorrow is not Monday. And anything that takes in air for combustion after the engine is ignited, is not a rocket.

Few things could be simpler. The dictionary is VERY clear on the subject. Yet look at all the rhetoric in this thread. The behavior of people really baffles me sometimes.

All I can say is, it blows their credibility all to hell. I mean, if a company that is proposing to do Single-Stage-to-Orbit rocketry shows the public that they do not even understand the definition of a rocket... well... maybe it would be cool to do a couple of bong hits with them but I will not be buying a ride. Know what I mean?

Re:Maybe it's an air-breathing rocket engine? (2, Informative)

john_connett (1437455) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926923)

Why not take a look at: http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/sabre.html [reactionengines.co.uk] which may answer some of these questions? I went to a talk by John Scott-Scott of Reaction Engines a few years back and was very impressed by his description of the engineering work for the Sabre engine. The Reaction Engines guys are practical engineers with a wealth of experience, far from the "bumbling Brits" some other comments suggest.

Re:Maybe it's an air-breathing rocket engine? (2, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26926989)

I have no problem with hybrid engines. I have o problem with someone who wants to try the SSTO approach. I have a very BIG problem with stupid, inaccurate press releases that get the science more wrong than most middle-school students who were interested in the subject would, given the chance.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927253)

You know what? I am really sick of this shit. I work hard to be a contributing member of Slashdot, but when something comes up that I can PROVE is wrong, and say so, some assholes get pissed off and mod my post as flamebait. That's not very -- dare I use the word? -- democratic.

Well, look at some of the other entries below. It ain't flamebait, nor yet troll. I don't mind saying that I often wish there were a way to negate those who mod down irresponsibly.

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (1)

xyzhello (1479097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927617)

So... What is a "water rocket"?

Re:This is REALLY, REALLY stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26928665)

Replying anonymously because I am one of those moderators:

It's flaimbait (to me) because of the language used not necessarily because of the content.
e.g. "I think the article is wrong because it uses inappropriate language and therefore should be treated with suspicion." is not flaimbait.

"This article sucks and the anyone who wrote it must be wrong because they are so stupid, and I'm totally right and everyone else should bow down before me" is flaimbait because although your reasons for having problems with the article may be valid, but the way you write it appears to be written in a way intended to annoy people.

Learn to speak like a civilised person participating in an intellectual debate rather than a petulant hormonal child and you may find the moderators far more to your liking.

We all know that real space planes are (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926859)

Re:We all know that real space planes are (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927209)

Mod parent troll. Scientology bullshit as an attachment to Bugzilla.

Re:We all know that real space planes are (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927263)

Here is the bug to which the attachments are attached:
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=478721 [mozilla.org]

If you have a Mozilla account then please comment on the bug requesting it to be deleted, as I have done.

looking for work as a wall st. of deceit broker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26926861)

ahhahaha

reminds us of the time when the last band of greed/fear/ego based illuminazis went south with their country's resources. better days ahead. guaranteed.

Just the thing for the solar power array (2, Interesting)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927387)

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/02/20/0149254 [slashdot.org]

If it works, then maybe the power guys will have what they need to take their stuff up.

But it's a very big 'if' IMHO...the current shuttle show the tremendous problems associated with 'reusable' spacecraft, and even then they launch it conventionally.

Re: (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26927821)

We already have a welfare system.We now have a new welfare system for rich bankers, investors, and politicians *plus* the effective cancellation of the widely-lauded Welfare Reform Act signed by former President Clinton for the welfare system we already had.Strat

F-A-B! (1)

Hardtrance (55355) | more than 5 years ago | (#26928197)

Thunderbirds are go!

And they have a plane. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26928733)

Skylons were created by man
They evolved
There will be many copies
And they have a plane?

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