A space plane that can take off and land from conventional runways is one step closer to reality.
Following a series of meetings in September 2010 at the International Space Innovation Center in Harwell, U.K., to look at the feasibility of a Reaction Engines design for a new generation of space-flight vehicle, the European Space Agency recently approved the Skylon vehicle and the SABRE (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) engine design for initial prototype development.
The meeting at which approval was given brought together nearly a hundred experts from Europe, Russia, the U.S., South Korea, and Japan to examine the technical and economic prospects for the new hybrid Air-Breathing-and-Rocket-Propulsion technology for future space planes.
The premise of the propulsion system is to develop a single-stage, fully reusable launch vehicle with short turnaround time and a flexible design capable of varied mission operations, including human transportation, cargo payload, and scientific missions.
According to Reaction Engines Limited, delivering payloads into orbit could drop from $15,000 per kilo to less than $1,000–vastly reducing the price of delivering payloads, such as telecommunications satellites, into orbit.