If the UK and Australia governments have their way, flights between London and Sydney could be 80% quicker in as little as ten years from now.
That's because the two companies announced during the UK Space Conference 2019 this week that they are creating a so-called Space Bridge in which the two space agencies will work together to create the concept for international space collaboration.
UK and Australia to collaborate on space, air travel
"The UK’s space heritage has strong links to Australia, with the first British rockets lifting off from Woomera in the 1950s, and we are committed to strengthening our friendship and partnership," said Dr. Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency in the press release. "A Space Bridge agreement will bring significant benefits to both our thriving space industries, facilitating new trade and investment opportunities and the exchange of knowledge and ideas."
The cornerstone of this new collaboration, according to media reports is the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) engine, created by Reaction Engines out of the UK. The engine could enable residents of the UK to get to Australia in as little as four hours, said Turnock during the event. "This is technology that could definitely deliver that. We're talking the 2030s for operational service, and the work is already very advanced."
Reaction Engines' SABRE engine could drastically reduce air travel time
In April Reaction Engines successfully tested its precooler heat exchanger simulating conditions at Mach 3.3. That amounts to more than three times the speed of sound. It matches the speed recorded of the world's fastest jet-engined powered aircraft the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft and is more than 50% faster than the cruising speed of the Concorde. The SABRE engine was created to reach speeds of more than Mach 5 on Earth and then convert into a rocket that can reach speeds of Mach 25 in space.
To overcome the challenge of overheating the engine when the aircraft is traveling at five times the speed of sound, the engine uses tubes of cooled helium to keep temperatures at bay. The engine is currently being tested in Denver, Colorado. Plans are for the company to kick off test flights by the middle of the 2020s and have commercial flights in the 2030s, according to media reports.