Revolutionary Sabre engine powered plane passes vital milestone

A revolutionary new plane, which could one day fly 25 times faster than the speed of sound, has passed a key milestone.

The 'spaceplane' is being constructed by Reaction Engines with the ambition it will combine the fuel efficiency of a jet engine with the power and speed of a rocket.

The Sabre engine could allow the plane to transport people from London to Auckland in less than four hours at the speed of five times the speed of sound.

It would also be capable of taking people and payloads on a return-trip into space for much less than it currently costs and reach up to 25 times the speed of sound as it enters space.

Recently, engineers have been working on a 'pre-cooler' for the plane, which stops the Sabre engine from melting by reducing the air in the engine from more than 1000degC to room temperature in one-twentieth of a second.

This has been done by using tubes thinner than human hair and filled with liquid helium, which cools air rushing past them, reports The Sun.

On Monday (local time), the pre-cooler was successfully tested on Mach 3.3 conditions, the equivalent of more than three times the speed of sound.

"This is a hugely significant milestone which has seen Reaction Engines' proprietary pre-cooler technology achieve unparalleled heat transfer performance," said Mark Thomas, Reaction Engines chief executive.

In partnership with Rolls-Royce and Boeing, the engine will continue to be refined over the coming years.