Reaction Engines has announced that is has successfully tested the key pre-cooler component of its revolutionary SABRE engine crucial to the development of its SKYLON spaceplane. The company claims that craft equipped with SABRE engines will be able to fly to any destination on Earth in under 4 hours, or travel directly into space.

The SABRE engine is capable of operating either as a jet or a rocket, powering aircraft, Reaction Engines claims, at five times the speed of sound within Earth atmosphere, or at 25 times the speed of sound flying directly into orbit. The key to this level of performance is the engine's pre-cooler, which Reaction Engines claims will chill air from over 1000º C (1832º F) to -150º C (-238º F) in under 1/100th of a second.

Cut-away of Reaction Engines' SABRE engine

The pre-cooler technology was the subject of the latest tests, and Reaction Engines claims its prototype, which is already down to flight-weight, demonstrates the necessary structural integrity, aerodynamic stability and lack of vibration necessary. Though the engine's pre-cooling tests are described as preliminary, further tests commencing in August will push this component to the performance ultimately required.

It has taken a team of more than 30 engineers 22 years to get the SABRE engine where it is today. The cooling assembly used in the engine is on display at the Farnborough Airshow until Sunday July 15.

Reaction Engine's explanatory video of the SABRE engine can be seen below.

Source: Reaction Engines (PDF)