Fly London to Sydney in 4 hours with new jet engine

The 24-hour slog from Sydney to London might soon(ish) be a thing of the past, thanks to the UK government.

The Brits have just pumped £60 million (USD $92.40 million) into a next-generation engine that — its makers claim — will make low-cost space travel possible for commercial customers.

But you and I might not be stepping abroad this super-plane for a while yet. The new ‘Sabre’ engine — a hybrid rocket and jet propulsion system which theoretically allows travel anywhere on Earth in four hours or less — is still at least a decade away, the Independent reported.

A cutaway of the Sabre engine. (Reaction Engines)

But a full ground-based engine test is planned for 2020, it said.

The company behind the jet is Reaction Engines, based in Oxfordshire, and it’s been given the £60 million by the government to help it develop and build the Skylon super-plane.

The Sabre engine revealed in the Skylon plane.

The Sabre engine revealed in the Skylon plane. (Reaction Engines)

And the big guns in aviation are getting very excited. Aerospace giant BAE has snapped up a 20 per cent slice of the company. BAE and Reaction will form a “working partnership ... to progress towards the demonstration of a ground based engine”, according to the Independent.

So how does it work?

This is where it gets technical. The super-plane will rely on cooling an incoming airstream from 1,832 degrees to minus 302 almost instantly, at close to 1/100th of a second. It will double the technical limits of a jet engine, and allow the craft to reach, up to five times the speed of sound, before switching to a rocket engine to reach orbit.

The Skylon could also slash the cost of launching satellites into orbit, once it gets off the ground.