A series of advancements and breakthroughs in heat exchange technology will soon enable manufacturers to construct rocket engines capable of operating both inside Earth's atmosphere, and in space. This could in turn lead to a decrease in the costs currently associated with space exploration.
The new class of motors is called Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE). These devices can theoretically operate as both jets and rockets, and have been under development at Reaction Engines Ltd for the better part of two decades. In aircraft, SABRE engines can reach Mach 5.
In spacecraft, these motors can produce speeds of up to Mach 25, which is the equivalent of 30,000 kilometers, or 18,641 miles, per hour. The most significant advancement that enabled the company to create these engines is a new class of ultra-lightweight heat exchangers, as well as an advanced technology for preventing frost, IChemE reports.
According to Reaction Engines Ltd., the SABRE engine is capable of cooling air from 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 °F) to -150 degrees Celsius (-238 °F) in just one hundredth of a second. At the same time, the heat exchangers are roughly 100 times lighter than similar devices in use today.