Government to spend £60m on revolutionary Sabre rocket engine that will be used on spaceplane Skylon

Skylon will be capable of reaching Earth's stratosphere in just 15 minutes

The Government will spend £60 million on a revolutionary new rocket engine that can send astronauts into orbit and accelerate aircraft to five times the speed of sound, a minister confirmed.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said the investment in Sabre, a British-designed engine, would provide support at a “crucial stage” to allow a full-scale prototype to be built.

Reaction Engines, the company behind the Sabre project, will seek to use the technology on a unique “spaceplane” called Skylon, which will be capable of taking people to Earth's stratosphere in just 15 minutes.

“We're investing £60 million in this and we expect them to go out and find private support as well,” Mr Willetts told Radio Five Live.

“But we're backing this because it's technology that has been tested in the lab, it's been assessed by outside experts as right in principle, but now it needs to be built on a full-scale prototype before it can get commercial.

“We think it's right to support it through that crucial stage. That's where too many great British ideas in the past have failed.”

Mr Willetts will speak at the UK Space Conference in Glasgow, which runs until Wednesday, where he is expected to release more details about the investment.

Reaction Engines are now hoping to run flights carrying 15 tonnes of cargo to space stations by 2022.

Spaceplanes can operate as aircrafts within Earth's atmosphere, as well as functioning as a space craft when in space. Only rocket powered aircrafts have so far managed to reach space.

Skylon could be potentially viewed as a competitor to Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic business, in which people can experience six minutes of weightlessness during a sub-orbital spaceflights.

Test flights for the spaceplane are initially being scheduled for 2019. The unpiloted vehicle will be able to reach speeds of more than 19,000 miles an hour, cutting the journey time from London to Australia to approximately four hours.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific