BAE Systems acquired a 20% stake in Reaction Engines for £20.6 million.
Reaction Engines is an aerospace manufacturer based in Oxfordshire developing a hybrid rocket/jet engine called Sabre.
Sabre, also known as the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine, is designed to propel aircraft into space and allow people to fly across the world in hours.
Previous attempts to design single stage to orbit propulsion systems have been unsuccessful because of the weight of on-board oxidisers, such as liquid oxygen.
However, the Sabre engine is capable of creating its own liquid oxygen by cooling air entering the engine to -150C.
According to Reaction Engines: “This approach enables SABRE-powered vehicles to save carrying over 250 tons of on-board oxidant on their way to orbit, and removes the necessity for massive throw-away first stages that are jettisoned once the oxidant they contain has been used up”
The engine is reportedly capable of driving aircraft at almost 4000 miles per hour – over twice as fast as Concorde. Reaction Engines says on its website that Sabre will enable aircraft to operate easily at speeds of up to five times the speed of sound or fly directly into Earth orbit.
Nigel Whitehead, group managing director at BAE Systems said: “Reaction Engines is a highly innovative UK company and our collaboration gives BAE Systems a strategic interest in a breakthrough air and space technology with significant future potential.
“BAE Systems’ considerable engineering and development expertise will help support the delivery of the first demonstrator for the SABRE engine.”
The UK government previously announced that it would grant £60 million to help research Sabre.
Jo Johnson MP, Minister for Universities and Science said: “This investment by BAE Systems reflects the strength of British engineering and technology and our ambitions as a leading space nation.
“I am sure that this partnership will strengthen both organisations – helping to create more jobs in the UK’s growing space sector and ultimately to make the SABRE engine a reality.”