Reaction Engines (H4/C2) has announced successful stage one and two tests of a revolutionary pre-cooler of a new type of engine called SABRE, which could propel aircraft round the Earth in four hours or straight into orbit.

The company's design features a cross between a jet engine and rocket engine with an air-cooling system attached, and is part of the Skylon space plane design.

"This technology could be the answer," minister of state for universities and science David Willetts said at the show, noting the UK technology firm's progress.

Testing of the key pre-cooler technology, which cools an incoming airstream from over 1,000˚C to -150˚C in less than one-hundredth of a second, has completed the first two out of a series of three planned tests.

The initial tests, Reaction Engines says, have shown that the air-cooler is aerodynamically stable. While sub-zero temperatures have been achieved, the final series of tests are to commence next month at operating temperatures down to -150˚C.

Alan Bond, one of main designers of the SABRE engine and its pre-cooler, says the team had managed runs of 6min, which equates to how long the pre-cooler would have to operate in real life. However, he noted that the full test of the frost control technology would occur in the final tests.

Minister Willetts had said at an earlier Farnborough space press conference that future space transportation would probably require reusable launch vehicles using suitable engine technology.

He was careful in noting that the pre-cooler design had been both appraised by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the UK Space Agency, adding: "What we are seeing is the emergence of potentially a very successful British technology."

Source: Flight Daily News