A new European Space Agency (ESA) funded study will try to establish the business case for Skylon, the reusable space plane proposed by Reaction Engines Ltd (REL) and supported by UK government.

“We are in full development of Ariane 5ME and have already started the development of Ariane 6 in Phase A, but we have to keep our eyes open,” Julio Aprea, ESA’s technical officer for the new study told BBC News. “If the Skylon vehicle exists some day, it will be a game-changer for everyone.”

The Skylon air-breathing engine (Sabre) would enable the plane to take off, and land on a standard runaway after delivering payload in low Earth orbit, without using expensive chemical rockets. Sabre is currently in development following favourable technical reports from ESA’s propulsion experts. The €1 million study will assess Skylon’s possible market share from the early 2020 onwards, dealing also with some of the technical issue.

Mark Hempsell, REL’s future programmes director, told BBC News:

“At the end of the study we would like to have demonstrated the full business case for an operator, whoever that might be. It would be an operator who has bought two Skylons, some upper-stages, some other equipment and flies out of Kourou in French Guiana. We have a market that is defined in the [study] requirements and our aim is to determine how much money this operator could make.”


About the author

Matteo Emanuelli

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Matteo Emanuelli is Feature Editor of Space Safety Magazine. He is a young professional from Italy but living in France where he works as engineer and project manager at Université de Picardie. He is member of the Space Generation Advisory Council where he is Co-Lead of the Space Safety Sustainability Project Group. Matteo also worked on a space debris removal mission at the Omsk State Technical University in Russia while he was enrolled at Politecnico di Milano.

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