Skylon: An Example of Commercial Launcher System Development

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M. Hempsell et al. (2014), JBIS, 67, pp.434-439

Refcode: 2014.67.434
Keywords: SKYLON, commercial space

SKYLON is a reusable single stage to orbit spaceplane that can take off from a runway, reach a 300 km altitude low earth orbit with a payload of 15 tonnes and then return to earth for a runway landing. The feature that enables this is the Synergistic AirBreathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) which has both air breathing and pure rocket modes. The project has been conceived as a commercial venture with the objective that the price charged for the launch, covers all operational and acquisition cost with profit. That means access to space becomes a pure economic activity without the need for public subsidy of the development or day to day running costs of the launch activity. A key way to achieve this objective is the separation of the supplier of the SKYLON system and the operator, following the model in the air transport industry where airliner manufacturers build aircraft that are then sold to many different competing airlines. This approach allows commercial development operations without any assumptions about growth in the market for space launches.


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