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Researchers working on aircraft that would send tourists out into space faster than the speed of sound.

The ultimate adventure ride could be coming soon to an airport near you.  It's called "Skylon" and the special aircraft is being developed for commercial use to carry tourists out into space within the next ten years. 

Skylon would take off from a standard airport runway and travel at more than five times the speed of sound, according to the
 Telegraph and Daily Mail. The revolutionary aircraft was developed by Reaction Engines, with support from the new UK space agency. 

The 270 foot-long spaceplane is unpiloted, has no external rockets, and has two engines that use hydrogen and oxygen to propel it more than 18 miles out of the Earth's atmosphere.  

The propulsion and attitude control are provided using computer systems while in orbit.  The engine uses the propulsion to reach the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere before switching to rocket power.

The aircraft – which can can remain operational in orbit for up to seven days – would take off from an airport, fly out into orbit, and then land on the runway. The craft is expected to carry up to 24 passengers into space at a time, revolutionize space travel, and cut costs. 

The reusable spaceplane is intended to provide inexpensive and reliable access to space within a decade.  

"Access to space is extraordinarily expensive, yet there’s no law of physics that says it has to be that way," said Technical Director and one of the founders of Reaction Engines, Richard Varvill. "We just need to prove it’s viable. The simple truth is that the Earth is part of a much bigger system."

In the future, Skylon could be used in place of NASA's Space Shuttle to transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.

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By Fred242 on 9/20/2010 4:17:48 AM , Rating: 3
They are not going to achieve anything by changing the name from Hotol to Skylon. This is just the same old Dan Dare stuff from 1982, lots of wishful thinking and very little engineering fact. The reason the name has changed is presumably to break the link with a discredited idea. Not a good start.

RE: Hotol
By jabber on 9/20/2010 6:07:35 AM , Rating: 3
As a brit...I'll believe it when I see it.

I remember the hype about HOTOL...and then nothing.

I'd rather we invest in a commercial aircraft that could get from London to New York in say three hou.......oh hang on...

Oh the dissapointment.

RE: Hotol
By geddarkstorm on 9/20/2010 1:16:26 PM , Rating: 2
There are serious differences between HOTOL and this. HOTOL for one was to be launched from a rocket sled, while Skylon is all self contained. HOTOL also had devistating stability issues in its design, which Skylon fixes. And then the engines are totally different between the two.

Really, it's the SABRE engines that are the main show, not the rest of the concept. And actually, it's the SABRE research that the UK space agency is funding, for a working engine prototype in 2011. The engine has already been proven technologically possible and to work on the small scale, so a full scale one soon should, if it works out too, finally bring back funding to the Skylon program and get us to the working prototype ship stage in a few years.

Skylon has a lot of promise if the engines work out, the rest is a piece of cake.


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