EADS Wins U.K. Satellite Funds as Reusable Rocket Also Gets Aid

European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. satellite equipment and a U.K. project to develop a new rocket engine will get an infusion of cash as the British government increases spending on space technology.

Astrium, the space unit of Toulouse, France-based EADS, was awarded a 134 million-pound ($202 million) contract to develop instruments for future European weather satellites, while closely held Reaction Engines Ltd. will get 60 million pounds for work on a reusable launcher, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills said in a statement today.

The U.K. has emphasized support to the space industry by establishing a national agency and increasing its contribution to the European Space Agency. The government estimates the sector contributes more than 9 billion pounds to the economy each year.

“To meet our target of capturing 10 percent of a growing world market we must harness new opportunities in new areas of space,” David Willetts, the minister for universities and science, said in the statement. “We want to be a world leader in growth and innovation in space.”

Astrium will provide sensors for ESA’s new MetOp second-generation satellites to help more accurately forecast weather, Willetts intends to announce today in Glasgow. The funding is linked to Britain getting work on European projects equivalent to its ESA contribution.

Flight Trials

The capital injection for Sabre, as the synergetic air-breathing rocket engine is known, is aimed at financing the first prototype of a reusable propulsion system to replace expendable launchers, the minister said. Flight trials are planned to start in about 2020.

The powerplant combines features of a typical jet engine, such as drawing in oxygen, which it mixes with liquid hydrogen to produce thrust, before transitioning to on-board liquid oxygen once outside the atmosphere, Reaction Engines said on its website.

“The Sabre engine has the power to revolutionize our lives in the 21st century the way the jet engine did in the 20th century,” Willetts said. The engine could allow creation of space-planes able to fly up to Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

The government estimates the technology could generate 21,000 “high value engineering and manufacturing jobs.”

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