The days of long, boring plane journeys could soon be coming to an end, as an astonishing new engine system promises to be able to take you anywhere in the world in just 4 hours.
The Skylon plane has recently got the thumbs up from the European Space Agency to begin operating tests. It's being built by Reaction Engines, which is utilising a brand-new type of engine; specifically, a Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine, or SABRE.
Its makers claim that the only new technology needed is a precooler, which allows the air entering the engine to be reduced in temperature by 1000 degrees Celsius in a hundredth of a second. This allows the engine to run at a far higher power than conventional engines, enabling it to travel at speed up to Mach 5 - five times faster than the speed of sound.
Skylon will measure 276 feet, will be capable of orbiting, once in space, in 'rocket mode' and could be used to launch satellites. A passenger version, called the Lapcat A2, is also being planned, which could carry up to 300 people.
It won't come cheap - each one will cost £1.1bn - but the company believe that they could cut the cost of space launches by 95%. The engine has already undergone around 100 tests, but now the craft itself can begin testing. There'll be a little while to wait yet though: test flights will begin in 2019, but a commercial version could take a lot longer than that. If it gets us to space and makes a Sydney weekend break a possibility, then it'll be worth it.
(Images: Reaction Engines)