Efforts to build an aircraft engine that could travel many times the speed of sound are moving ahead following a successful recent demonstration.
British aerospace company Reaction Engines tested its engine precooler system at its Colorado facility at conditions simulating travel at more than three times the speed of sound.
The precooler, CNN noted, reduces the temperature of the air moving through the engine at extreme speeds — temperatures that would otherwise damage the system.
Reaction officials said the precooler was able to bring temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Celsius down to the ambient temperature in less than one-twentieth of a second.
The sophisticated heat transfer system is intended to eventually be part of the SABRE, which stands for Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine. The engine would utilize oxygen from the atmosphere, enabling smaller and lighter rocket engines than current ones that carry their own oxygen supply.
The technology is intended to allow aircraft to fly at up to Mach 5 — enough to get from London to New York in less than an hour.
Perhaps more interestingly, officials say the engine could also serve as a rocket for space-going planes that travel at 25 times the speed of sound — meaning, one day, something approximating a conventional airplane could whisk people into outer space.