An aereospace company has been thrust into the limelight after appearing in a BBC documentary.
Airborne Engineering, based at the former Rocket Propulsion site at Westcott, regularly carries out static testing on SABRE, a new class of aircraft engine which will be capable of propelling modified aircraft directly into Earth orbit, at five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere.
The engine was created by Reaction Engines of Abingdon and the documentary focused on the company’s three founders whose aim is to build a revoluntary new craft which will put people into space.
Airborne Engineering featured in the programme and plays a continual and important part in the engine’s developmen.
Reaction Engines business development mananger Ben Gallagher said: “Airborne Engineering is a crucial element of the team testing the engine, and has a very active involvement in our project. The company provides facilities and expertise for the ground testing of our rocket componants.”
It is hoped that the SABRE engine, which is bolted to the ground during testing at Westcott, will be in use within four years.
Airborne Engineering managing director James Macfarlane said: “We are involved mainly on the rocket part of the engine. It is a cross between a jet engine and a rocket engine.
“The magic with this engine is the pre-cooler, which is a key bit of technology that Reaction Engines have perfected. At the opposite end, where the fuel gets burned – the combustion chamber and nozzle – we are researching all the different types of technology needed in order to achieve the best performance.”
Despite the incredible work they carry out, Airborne Engineering is a very small company of four people.
“We are small but incredbily busy,” said Mr Macfarlane. “It’s a fantastic job, it’s very exciting, it’s rocket science, it doesn’t feel like a job. But at the same time it is very meaningful and important because it is opening up the future of space travel.
“I was delighted to see the documentary on television.”