Although jet engines have never been sent into the vacuum of space, EADS Astrium does not expect to have to redesign the turbofans that would power its planned space tourism vehicle during the initial and final phases of flight.
In talks with engine suppliers the European company is confident the powerplants will not suffer as they travel to 100km (60 miles) altitude in a short time. Its space jet would carry four passengers and a pilot to just above 100km, travelling through the harsh environment for 5min and using a cold-gas reaction control system for attitude control.
After a horizontal take-off, the jet would fly to 39,300ft (12,000m) using two turbofans and then fire an EADS Ottobrunn-designed liquid oxygen/methane rocket motor. The jet engines would restart after re-entry with the return to conventional flight mode.
In an exclusive interview, EADS Astrium's chief technical officer Robert Laine said the turbofans would not suffer as "thermal inertia keeps the engines warm. There is no time to cool down. We only expect to have to examine possible oil loss."
The kerosene in the wing tanks is also expected to survive any heat dissipation-related changes due to the brief experience of a rarefied atmosphere and vacuum.