Rolls-Royce invests £20m in deal with aerospace firm
ELECTRIC airliners and jets flying at five times the speed of sound could be a reality within a decade after Rolls-Royce linked up with Reaction Engines, a British business which is pushing the limits of aerospace technology.
The companies have agreed a strategic partnership to investigate how Reaction Engines’ designs can be used in high-speed aircraft, and how its groundbreaking cooling technology can be integrated into military and civil aircraft.
Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines has developed a “Sabre” engine capable of operating at more than 2,500mph and which combines a conventional gas turbine with the properties of a rocket. This means it can work like a normal jet but switch to rocket-mode fuelled by liquefied oxygen at high altitude where the air thins out.
A key part of the design is a superefficient heat exchanger which is light and compact enough to be used in aerospace. Managing heat generated at high speeds is a vital for supersonic flight and also has spin-off uses such as cooling, a major challenge for developing electric aircraft.
It has extensive applications in the automotive world.
Mark Thomas, chief executive, said: “Our design has demonstrated cooling of 900C in less time than the blink of an eye. We can take air from temperature of molten lava to a level where you could comfortably stand in it.”
The partnership will also see Rolls pump £20m into privately owned Reaction Engines, making the famed engineer one of its biggest shareholders, alongside BAE Systems. Other investors include Boeing and investment fund Baillie Gifford.
The tie-up means Reaction Engines’ technology could be test flown with a couple of years, he said, and predicted it could be in military or civil use within a decade.
The investment comes with Rolls in the process of cutting 15pc of its staff, some 9,000 workers worldwide, as it battles the impact of the pandemic.
Jets flying at five times the speed of sound could be reality by the 2030s with a hypersonic engine being developed by Reaction Engines