Tuesday, 22 July 2014
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Last week's poll: Developing Skylon

The European Space Agency’s latest report on UK firm Reaction Engines’ Skylon spaceplane concept and the SABRE engines which would power it says that the project is ‘financially feasible’. What would be the best way for the project to proceed?

Of the 376 readers who responded to our poll last week, the largest group, 35 per cent, thought that the European Space Agency should adopt Skylon as its next launcher concept to replace Ariane, and fund the technology accordingly. The next largest group thought ESA should fund development until the SABRE air-breathing jet/rocket engine is fully tested. The remaining options were close, with 16 per cent saying that Skylon should remain privately-funded and 13 per cent calling for more studies to compare the costs of Skylon satellite launch with conventional rocketry.


Please let us know what you think of these results.

Readers' comments (14)

  • None of the above. ESA should place a purchase order on Reaction Engines for a fixed price in-orbit delivery. That way risk is correctly allocated - RE owns the execution risk and ESA owns the market risk. RE remains an entrepreneurial private company.

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  • ESA should fund the SABRE engine development until it can be reasonably demonstrated as a viable and suitable power source.

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  • Public funding is OK, when there is money.

    Right now, every state in Europe is deep in debts.

    Get out of the debts first, l then fund your pet projects.

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  • At least ESA should fund some development costs, and Ideally on top of that I like Chris Elliotts proposal of a fixed price purchase order

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  • Virgin Galactic. (Private & Public)
    It's the next Concorde, world beating, and would provide superfast intercontinental passenger flights.
    Not sure they have enough money, but the UK Government should jump on this.
    And build a port in the UK, obviously.

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  • Spend money to make money, this is a great move forward a key move at that. The British government should nurse to fruition as an investment which has world changing potential and will bring a major industry to the British shores. The world spends so much money on wars I just don't see the problem spending on this: the technology exists, its not a concept its the future. When is the world going to sit down as one and ask itself whats the scope of human progression because unfortunately this world is not enough, we are depleting resources and are over populated this Earth the future is expansion and this technology is the key

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  • By all means use European and UK public money to an extent, but to me it is vital that this stays a substantially British owned and British made project. A wide range of funding, including crowd sourcing etc would ensure Reaction stay in control of their own destiny and can maximise the benefits to the UK.

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  • I would like to see a substantial ESA commitment but with a controlling amount of UK funding to ensure Skylon is developed in the UK and not France. Furthermore, as Reaction Engines are not an airframe company, and have already funded the engines, then a UK based Skylon development organisation/holding company may need forming to drive the project. Alan Bond's idea is to lease Skylons, so a dedicated leasing company may also be needed. ESA's contribution would give them drastically reduced launch costs and preferential leasing rates - altough Arianne may then be no more!

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  • With all new projects the greatest problem is keeping a level head.Square windows in the comet(because it looks good) was and is symptomatic of messing with what works well.
    The Engineers make it fly but this is not success.
    Success is now international. understanding that,and that we are not alone will make Skylon a winner.

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  • Skylon is a fantastic project, and the SABRE engine is world-beating technology. RE have passed every engineering test and scrutiny, and the project has now been proved to be economically sound. What is needed is the continued funding for on-going development of the engines and vehicle construction. As others have said, this should remain a British concern, but ESA should look on it as a means of providing future launch capability, so it is in their interest to support it. That puts my view in between options 1 and 4. I don't think that ESA alone should fund Skylon, but I would opt towards that rather than only funding the project up to the development of SABRE.

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