New Vacuum Furnace Installed in Culham, UK

The Reaction Engines team are celebrating the installation and current commissioning of a new state-of-the-art high vacuum furnace at Culham Science Centre, Oxfordshire. Representatives from the UK Space Agency, Department of BIS and the European Space Agency recently visited Reaction Engines’ new pre-cooler manufacturing centre at Culham Science Centre.

This state-of-the-art facility is capable of achieving temperatures up to 1200°C and a vacuum level of less than one ten billionth of the Earth’s atmosphere (10-10atm). The bespoke furnace was designed and commissioned by Reaction Engines and produced by Consarc Engineering Ltd, based in Holytown, Scotland.

With an internal diameter of nearly 3m, and a total internal volume of 25m3, this equipment is optimised for the manufacture of the full-scale SABRE pre-cooler technology which will be built, tested and validated over the course of the SABRE Engine Demonstrator Programme. The furnace was jointly funded by Reaction Engines’ private capital, alongside European Space Agency ‘General Support Technology Programme’ (GSTP) funding. Simon Hanks, Head of Advanced Manufacturing at Reaction Engines, commented: “The furnace represents enabling technology that is virtually unique in the UK. With its exceptionally clean processing environment and a highly responsive thermal performance, REL has the means to build world-leading heat exchanger technology. This is exemplified in the full-scale pre-coolers that are soon to be manufactured and tested. With efforts underway to demonstrate the performance of the full SABRE engine cycle on a static test bed, the pre-cooler manufacturing capability will form a critical part of that undertaking” Mark Thomas, Managing Director, Reaction Engines Limited said: “Today’s announcement represents an important landmark in the transition of Reaction Engines from a company that has been focused on the research and testing of enabling technologies for the SABRE engine to one that is now focused on the development and testing of the world’s first SABRE engine. BAE Systems brings industry leading capabilities in programme delivery and wider engineering systems integration that will accelerate the 1 development of SABRE as a new engine class and its vehicle applications. This partnership builds on the outstanding technical breakthroughs that Reaction Engines has made and the positive assessments received on the potential of the technology from experts at the European Space Agency and the United States’ Air Force Research Laboratory (‘AFRL’).