A ROCKET-building firm based in Oxfordshire is expanding and creating 100 jobs.
Reaction Engines Limited is developing the revolutionary Synergetic Air-breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE), which allows aircraft to fly into Earth’s orbit from conventional runways.
And as part of the next stage of the project it will be hiring people to work in engineering, manufacturing and administration at its Culham Science Centre site.
The firm is moving from the Culham Innovation Centre across the road to the science centre in November, joining a host of other high-tech organisations.
Managing director Alan Bond said he hoped a test model of the SABRE engine could be made by 2018 or 2019.
He said: “The project is now moving into the next stage and there is an enormous amount of work to do.
“We are going to need people in different jobs, from engineering to administration, as we push towards getting a real SABRE engine tested.”
The project has attracted £60m of Government investment, with that amount having been “easily matched” by the private sector, Mr Bond said.
It will power the firm’s Skylon space plane, which will travel five times the speed of sound and fly astronauts to the stratosphere in just 15 minutes.
Reaction Engines developed a key component of the engine – the ultra-lightweight heat exchangers.
Mr Bond said the development and production of the SABRE engine, involving other firms as well as Reaction Engines, is likely to cost £10bn.
He said: “It will not just be developed by us, but we cracked one major part of it.”
The firm first moved to the Culham Innovation Centre in 2001, employing just three staff. Now it employs 45 people in Culham, with 15 others based in Wantage and Newbury, Berkshire.
The news was welcomed by the Government’s Universities, Science and Cities Minister Greg Clark.
Mr Clark said: “The SABRE project is an exciting opportunity to develop new technology and create new jobs and the Government has made a clear commitment to this project with its £60m investment.
“The 100 new manufacturing and engineering jobs in Oxford reinforce our efforts to make the UK the place for space.”
It comes as scientists at RAL Space, in Harwell’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, were celebrating the European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter’s rendezvous with a comet.
Its onboard instruments, developed by researchers at the facility, are being used to learn more about the relationship between ice water on comets and the Earth’s oceans.
- You can watch a concept video of the Skylon spacecraft, which is powered by the SABRE engine at ow.ly/A42Ct
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