credit: Reaction Engines / caption: Skylon docks with the International Space Station
If links between New Mexico and UK plans for reusable spaceplanes were not evident enough with Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic's presence there then a new research contract has only made those trans-Atlantic connections more concrete
UK single stage to orbit Skylon spaceplane developer Reaction Engines has announced on its website that it has placed a study contract with the Physical Science Laboratory at the New Mexico State University (NMSU)
Reaction Engines says: "NMSU will be undertaking a preliminary evaluation of the requirements that Skylon D1 will need to meet for safe autonomous flight"
Skylon D1 is an enhanced version with a greater payload capability. The UK company states that the university was selected because of its heritage with unmanned flight vehicles - Skylon is not piloted but may have a passenger module for its payload bay
NMSU's knowledge of the US National Airspace System and "expertise" about the worldwide airspace systems were also factors in its selection