42T to assist in the mechanical design of SKYLON spaceplane

42 Technology (42T) has been appointed by Reaction Engines to provide engineering consultancy and to help with the mechanical design of key operational features of the SKYLON.

The SKYLON, a reusable spaceplane, will be used primarily for satellite deployment and is projected to cut the cost of delivering a satellite into orbit from more than £150m to £6m or less.  

The spaceplane is designed to take off from a conventional runway carrying a 15-tonne payload — similar to the NASA Space Shuttle — and uses a new generation of combined-cycle, air-breathing engines to reach its target orbit in a single stage.

According to a statement, 42T has been brought in to provide ’fresh ideas and thinking’ to the existing SKYLON programme with an initial team comprising in-house engineers, plus specialists drawn from a network of associates.  

One of 42T’s first projects will be to advise on the mechanical engineering of the satellite mounting and deployment system and to research opportunities to further optimise for reliability and weight.

SKYLON has been designed to accelerate to just more than Mach 5 using atmospheric oxygen before switching the engines to use an on-board liquid oxygen supply to take it to orbit.

The unpiloted plane releases its payload, then re-enters the atmosphere and lands.  

Reaction Engines has part funded the development of its SABRE hybrid engine with grants from the European Space Agency and other bodies and is now targeting additional development finance to build its first SKYLON prototypes.

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