Intriguing new propulsion concept for space launch

Engineers at Reaction Engines in the United Kingdom are working on a radical improvement in propulsion for space launch. The engine liquifies atmospheric oxygen and uses it to burn liquid hydrogen from onboard tanks.

It’s axiomatic that advances in propulsion technology are the principal source of improved vehicle performance. Any technology that can use atmospheric oxygen instead of on-board oxygen to launch a vehicle into space is going to greatly reduce the weight of the vehicle. But the tradeoffs will be cost, complexity and the added weight of an airbreathing, winged, reusable vehicle.

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