Thursday, July 18, 2013


SKYLON UPDATE: The UK Government is investing £60m GBP ($92m USD) on the Skylon's revolutionary Sabre engine, to enable a full-scale prototype to be built - so maybe this special edition model isn't pie-in-the-sky. 

That political vote of confidence means that the designers now hope to see Sabre engines powering the Skylon spaceplane on operational flights by 2022, each ship carrying a 15-tonne payload into orbit.

First test flights for the uncrewed vehicle are tentatively scheduled three years earlier, in 2019. As a passenger-carrying machine, a skip-glide flight across the top of the atmosphere could enable a London-Sydney journey in as little as four hours.

The British-designed Skylon is the brainchild of engineer Alan Bond, reports Mat Irvine. Bond heads his own space business, Reaction Engines, and now it may not be too many years before the single-stage-to-orbit aerospaceplane soars into orbit. Until then we can dream on with this Herpa 1:250 scale model kit.

Alan Bond (above) in times past has worked for aerospace companies BAC and Rolls-Royce, but now designs with his own company, Reaction Engines Ltd, to develop ideas for high-tech spacecraft. He wants to build something that can take off from a runway, travel into orbit, then return to a runway landing, like the now-retired Space Shuttle. But unlike the only partially-reusable Shuttle, Bond’s Skylon should be able to do the trip without needing expensive throwaway boosters.

High-tech Sabre
To achieve this aim, Alan has designed the unique Sabre engine (above), which combines jet and rocket propulsion, so that the same engine can be used for flight in the atmosphere and in space. As planned, the Skylon will have a pair of Sabres, mounted one at each wingtip.

Herpa model
And now you can get a model of the Skylon. Made by Herpa, it is to 1:250 scale and can - just about - be classed as a kit, as you have to attach the wings to the fuselage, then join together two components to assemble the stand. Even to 1:250 scale, the finished model Skylon isn’t exactly small - from nose to tail, the model measures some 340 mm (13.3 in) long.

Scale issue
It’s a pity the model isn’t to a popular standard scale, but as it’s of such an unusual subject - one that’s not even built yet - it’s both a surprise and a pleasure to see it in model form at all, and here’s to Herpa for bringing the Skylon model to market.

BIS direct
The model is available direct from the website of the renowned British Interplanetary Society, of which Alan is a Fellow, and one of the speakers (above) at a recent ‘space day’ entitled From Imagination To Reality. This was held at the BIS London HQ in mid-September, where, as well as discussing Skylon, Alan also waxed lyrical on one of his strongest early influences.

Pilot of the Future
That influence is one that Alan maintains started him on the path to Skylon: it was the space hero Dan Dare of the Eagle, a mega-successful weekly comic that fired the imaginations of millions of boys in the 1950s and 1960s. Above, Alan holds a 1:6 scale figure of Dan Dare, dressed smartly in Space Fleet green, as visualised by Frank Hampson for the Eagle, first issue April 14, 1950.

Buy the 1:250 scale Herpa Skylon model here

Other Herpa models - in all sorts of scales - here.

Visit Reactions Engines here.

Other spacecraft models available here.

Mr J note: Dan Dare influenced an entire generation, including me. Visit Starcruzer to read about Dan and his exploits, plus notes on his creator, Frank Hampson.