Over 30 years of history.

Company founded

Reaction Engines was founded in 1989 by three propulsion engineers from Rolls-Royce: Alan Bond, Richard Varvill and John Scott-Scott. Their early work on the RB545 engine, destined for use on HOTOL, was evolved and focused on producing a robust technical design for the new SABRE - Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine.



First angel investor

Paul Portelli’s investment was the first fundamental building block in the Reaction Engines story. The experimental laboratory programme began in 2001 thanks to Paul Portelli’s investment, eventually proving the heat exchanger technology and its associated frost control.

First major investor

Nigel McNair Scott was looking for an inspirational project to invest in. Alan, Richard and John's passion for their work convinced Nigel that the world needed fully reusable space access capability. Nigel's investment was the first step in developing a large network of shareholders across the globe.




During a 2008 EU-funded study called LAPCAT I, Reaction Engines found that a SABRE variant named Scimitar would be capable of powering a vehicle at cruise speeds of up to Mach 5. This was the first major government research contract and was worth €2 million. The LAPCAT I contract for the precooler represented the first opportunity to demonstrate its world-beating heat exchanger design and manufacturing capabilities.


By 2012, the company had manufactured a fully operational precooler with the associated frost control systems. Following a test programme which included over 700 rig tests, the precooler had been verified beyond doubt.

Following this technology verification the UK Government committed £60 million via the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency.



BAE Systems investment

In 2015, the partnership and strategic investment of £20.6 million with BAE Systems was announced. This represented an important landmark in the transition of Reaction Engines from a company that had been focused on the research and testing of enabling technologies for SABRE, to one that was now focused on development and building capability to become a serious player in the aerospace sector.

New leadership team and strategic investment

Throughout 2015 and 2016 the leadership team was strengthened and the focus moved to executing the SABRE programme and aligning the company towards customer and delivery focus. The appointment of a lead for the new US based subsidiary allowed the expansion of the company’s development efforts and engagement with potential US Government and industry partners.

In April 2018, the company announced it has raised a further £26.5 million in a strategic fundraising by securing working with backing from some of the most influential names in aerospace and finance, including Boeing and Rolls-Royce.



Hot HTX test

Reaction Engines Inc., (U.S. subsidiary) in collaboration with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), conducted high temperature airflow testing of its precooler test article called HTX. This ground-based test achieved the highest temperature objective of the Company’s HTX testing programme and took place at its specially constructed unique facility at the Colorado Air and Space Port, United States.

Partnership with Rolls-Royce

Strategic partnership with Rolls-Royce to develop high-speed aircraft propulsion systems and explore applications for Reaction Engines’ thermal management technology.

SABRE technology

Testing of two vital SABRE sub-systems completed – the HX3 heat exchanger and the advanced hydrogen preburner. These experiments are the latest in a wider series designed to validate SABRE technology.



Applied Technologies launched

We launched our Applied Technologies division to apply our thermal management expertise to a range of industries - providing a step change in performance, efficiency and sustainability in motorsport, energy, aerospace and more.

HX LIFE Foils launched

Applied Technologies introduced HX LIFE Foils – a brand new battery thermal management system which could revolutionise the EV market. The Foils could potentially accelerate the uptake of electric cars through a range of significant performance benefits.

HVX programme announced

Building on the pioneering high-speed propulsion technologies and extensive research and development capabilities of the partners, the Hypersonic Air Vehicle Experimental (HVX) Programme aims to establish the UK as a leader in reusable hypersonic air systems.