Recognize And Grab Inspiration

Space travel. I have always been interested in space travel and remember sitting up half the night to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Technologically, the advance in space exploration has gone forward in leaps and bounds and when I found the information below I was really surprised that a British firm had been developing an engine that could be powered by two different fuels. We are now watching the X Craft project taking shape and the ideas that inspired the Skylon (British) craft are being used to help the bigger picture which is getting a man to Mars. Passengers are already travelling to the edge of space with Richard Branson and the new small capsule with two men is being used to travel to the space station. Another craft X is being launched to the edge of space and then returning to its point of launch and gently touching back down onto its launch pad.

In a few short years, space travel will mean going to the moon for a connection to Mars. Nothing in space travel is more exciting than exploring the beyond. From all of the documentation data springs new ideas as old projects are picked clean and reassembled into a new refined project.

At the time I read about Skylon, I had just finished writing a book and was looking for something to write about that included politics and corruption in Whitehall. I immediately saw a story in Skylon and started my thinking program in much the same way as I have will all stories I write. What if? With such an abundance of facts about the American space program and the British involvement in the rocket engine, it was easy to imagine two competing companies plus a couple of subplots linked to the main plot and a super Russian plot thrown in that ensnares Pete West, our hero and ‘voila,’ a plot.

Inspiration comes in many guises. As soon as I saw this information, I grabbed the inspiration.


A WaveRider is a hypersonic aircraft design that improves its supersonic lift-to-drag ratio by using the shock waves generated by its own flight as a lifting surface, a phenomenon known as compression lift. The only crewed aircraft to use the technique was the Mach 3 supersonic XB-70 Valkyrie.

The WaveRider remains a well-studied design for high-speed aircraft in the Mach 5 and higher hypersonic regime, although no design has yet been produced. The Boeing X-51A scramjet demonstration aircraft was launched on Tuesday, August 14, 2012. The X-51 successfully launched from the wing of a B-52 bomber, but after 16 seconds, there was a problem with a control fin. The aircraft was unable to maintain its course, and the test was terminated before the X51-A’s Scramjet engine was ignited. The craft then crashed into the Pacific Ocean.


On May 3, 2013, it was extensively reported that the Boeing X-51 Waverider had launched successfully from 50,000 feet (15,000 m) and had accelerated using a rocket to Mach 4.8 (3,200 mph; 5,100 km/h), at which point it separated from the rocket and ignited its Scramjet. It then accelerated further to Mach 5.1 (3,400 mph; 5,400 km/h) and climbed to 60,000 feet (18,000 m) before shutting down its engine and intentionally crashing into the Pacific. The engine ran for more than 240 seconds and the aircraft covered over 260 miles (420 km; 230 mi).


Skylon is a design for a single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane by the British company Reaction Engines Limited (REL), using SABRE, a combined-cycle, air-breathing rocket propulsion system, potentially reusable for 200 flights. In paper studies, the cost per kilogram of payload carried to low earth orbit is hoped to be reduced from the current £15,000/kg (as of 2011). This will also include research and development, to around £650/kg, with costs expected to fall much more over time after initial expenditures have amortised. In 2004, the developer estimated the total lifetime cost of the programme to be about $12 billion.

SABRE engine

The vehicle design is for a hydrogen-fuelled aircraft that would take off from a conventional runway. It will accelerate to Mach 5.4 at 26 kilometres (16 mi) altitude using atmospheric air before switching the engines to use the internal liquid oxygen (LOX) supply to take it into orbit. It would then release its payload, of up to 15 tonnes, and re-enter the atmosphere. The vehicle will be unpiloted but also be certified to carry passengers. All payloads could be carried in a standardised container compartment. The relatively light vehicle, its skin protected by a ceramic composite, would fly back through the atmosphere and land on a runway after re-entry. It would then undergo inspection and any necessary maintenance and, if the design goal is achieved, be able to fly again within two days.


As of 2012, only a small portion of the funding required to develop and build Skylon had been secured. The research and development work on the SABRE engine design is proceeding under a small European Space Agency (ESA) grant. In January 2011, REL submitted a proposal to the British government to request additional funding for the project. In April, REL announced that they had secured $350 million of further funding contingent on a successful test of the engine’s pre-cooler technology. Testing the key technologies were successfully completed in November 2012, allowing Skylon’s design to advance to its final phase. On 16 July 2013, the British government pledged £60m to the project: this investment will provide support at a “crucial stage” to allow a full-scale prototype of the SABRE engine to be built.

Test Flight

If all goes to plan, the first test flights could happen in 2019, and Skylon could be visiting the International Space Station by 2022. It could carry 15 tonnes of cargo to a 300 km equatorial orbit on each trip and up to 11 tonnes to the International Space Station, almost 45% more than the European Space Agency’s ATV vehicle capacity.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Author’s note:

Latest reports indicate that the Americans are designing their craft with military capabilities. This will enable them to reach any part of the world within one hour and deliver a nuclear payload. The British Space Agency has indicated that when they fly worldwide, a prototype around 2022 will be used to carry emergency aid to distressed areas.

The Future

However, because most of the technology is being used in the American program, the British engine is all but finished. Technology trips over itself as it reaches new discoveries and better answers to questions like – ‘How long before we go to Mars?’ Don’t laugh. It will happen in two decades.

Space X is with us now and maybe that will create more inspiration for the next Pete West spy thriller. Like all stories, fiction or non-fiction, the technological story is out of date by the time it is published.