The UK Government has invested £60m in a revolutionary new hybrid rocket technology which could finally bring low-cost space travel to the public.
British engineering company Reaction Engines have been working on a radical new engine design called SABRE which combines a conventional air-breathing jet engine with a liquid-fuelled rocket engine.
Creating a multi-stage rocket would drastically reduce the cost of placing objects in space as the aircraft would be able to take off like a normal plane and then use its hybrid engine to break free of Earth's atmosphere.
It could then release a satellite, or carry passengers, re-enter the atmosphere just outside of the point of destination and then land as a normal aircraft would.
If successful, the company says it could potentially reduce flight times around the world with a journey from London to Sydney taking as little as four hours.
One of the biggest obstacles facing Reaction and indeed the industry is finding a way to cool the air entering the engine from 1,000 degrees to -140 in just a fraction of a second.
If they can accomplish this, then the aircraft would be able to travel much faster than a conventional jet-based aircraft reaching speeds of up to Mach 5.
Along with £60m of UK grant funding, Reaction has sold a 20 per cent stake of the company to BAE Systems for £20m.
Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director, Programmes & Support, 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. Our partnership with Reaction Engines is part of our sustained commitment to investing in and developing prospective emerging technologies."
So when can we start booking our tickets to Sydney? Well not for a while, the technology is at least a decade away and that's before we start real testing.
Don't lose hope though, with the investment in place at least now there's an even greater chance of it happening at all.