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Skylon Aerodynamics and SABRE PlumesAn independent partial assessment is provided of the technical viability of the Skylon aerospace plane concept, developed by Reaction Engines Limited (REL). The objectives are to verify REL's engineering estimates of airframe aerodynamics during powered flight and to assess the impact of Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) plumes on the aft fuselage. Pressure lift and drag coefficients derived from simulations conducted with Euler equations for unpowered flight compare very well with those REL computed with engineering methods. The REL coefficients for powered flight are increasingly less acceptable as the freestream Mach number is increased beyond 8.5, because the engineering estimates did not account for the increasing favorable (in terms of drag and lift coefficients) effect of underexpanded rocket engine plumes on the aft fuselage. At Mach numbers greater than 8.5, the thermal environment around the aft fuselage is a known unknown−a potential design and/or performance risk issue. The adverse effects of shock waves on the aft fuselage and plumeinduced flow separation are other potential risks. The development of an operational reusable launcher from the Skylon concept necessitates the judicious use of a combination of engineering methods, advanced methods based on required physics or analytical fidelity, test data, and independent assessments.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Ames Research Center
Document Type
Conference Paper
Mehta, Unmeel
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Afosmis, Michael
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Bowles, Jeffrey
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Pandya, Shishir
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 12, 2015
Publication Date
July 6, 2015
Subject Category
Aircraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
AIAA Paper 2015-3605
Meeting Information
Meeting: AIAA International Space Planes and Hypersonic Systems and Technologies
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Country: United Kingdom
Start Date: July 6, 2015
End Date: July 9, 2015
Sponsors: American Inst. of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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