The future of propulsion at Westcott
Our voice of business this month is:
Mark Thomas, Chief Executive Officer, Reaction Engines
Reaction Engines, a British company based at Culham Science Park in nearby Oxfordshire, is developing a new class of air-breathing rocket engine, SABRE™ (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine). SABRE engines will enable aircraft to fly over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere and allow space launch vehicles to be built that will radically improve the affordability and responsiveness of access to space.
Reaction Engines have achieved a breakthrough in aerospace engine technology by developing ultra-lightweight heat exchangers, which stop engine components from overheating at high flight speeds. As part of this development, the company is constructing a new test facility at the Westcott Venture Park where they plan to undertake the first ground-based demonstration of the SABRE engine core.
Westcott has a long and established history as a rocket propulsion test site, having been used to test various UK rocket projects since 1946, including the Blue Streak and Black Arrow programmes. In 2016, the UK Space Agency selected Westcott as the UK’s National Space Propulsion Test Facility and the site is now home to a number of space propulsion and satellite technology companies.
The new site, situated in the Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Zone, will enable tests of the critical subsystems along with the engine core itself, and offers the ability to construct a new and bespoke facility at a site that is becoming a key hub of the UK space industry. Westcott Venture Park came through as a clear winner when selecting the site with main considerations being: test site requirements, support facilities, location to current staff and access to a skilled workforce – in addition to the benefits of locating on an Enterprise Zone.
The new facility will be a key part of the emerging space cluster at Westcott and a real asset to the local community. Up to 40 people will be needed to staff the facility, and 90 percent of those jobs will be high-skilled specialist engineers and technicians (mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, control, combustion and propulsion fabrication).
The team at Reaction Engines are also taking into account the needs and considerations of the local Bucks community in the design and use of the new facility. An important aspect is a unique silencer which will cool and slowdown the exhaust to ensure noise levels at their nearest residential neighbours is limited to near background levels, and operations will be limited to normal working hours.
Now is an exciting time for the UK’s world-leading space sector, and Reaction Engines is proud to be leading the way in developing its next chapter. Westcott too can be rightly proud of its role as an essential part of this story, and that it will no doubt inspire future generations for years to come.
For more information on Reaction Engines please visit: www.reactionengines.co.uk