How the British Skylon Space Plane Works (Infographic)

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How the British Skylon Space Plane Works (Infographic)

How the British Skylon Space Plane Works (Infographic)

The British company Reaction Engines Ltd. hopes to manufacture Skylon, a runway-to-orbit space plane using hybrid air-breathing rocket engines.

Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics artist

The British Skylon single-stage-to-orbit space plane would take off from a runway and fly on air-breathing hydrogen-fueled rocket engines for much of its ascent through the atmosphere. When the air becomes too thin, Skylon switches to onboard liquid oxygen.

Watch Our Skylon Space Plane Video Show

Skylon’s payload bay carries both passengers and cargo, although the craft itself is controlled remotely and has no onboard pilots.

Crew: None (remotely controlled from the ground)
Passengers: None (up to 30 in optional passenger module)
Payload: 33,000 lbs. (15,000 kilograms)
Length: 273 feet (83 meters)
Wingspan: 88 feet (26.8 m)
Loaded weight: 717,000 lbs. (325,000 kg)
Maximum speed: air-breathing Mach 5.14, rocket Mach 27.8
Orbital altitude: 373 miles (600 kilometers)
The Skylon Personnel / Logistics Module (SPLM) could be installed in Skylon’s cargo bay for carrying a combination of passengers and supplies to orbital stations. If carrying passengers only, it could support up to 30 people.
From runway takeoff to an altitude of 17.4 miles (28 km), SABRE sucks in air to burn with its liquid hydrogen fuel. Once the air becomes too thin, Skylon switches to its onboard liquid oxygen tanks. This saves Skylon from having to carry more liquid oxygen than absolutely necessary.
The SABRE engine could be used in future commercial airliners capable of a cruising velocity of Mach 5 (3,806 mph, or 6,125 km/h) and a range of up to halfway around the world. This aircraft could carry 300 passengers from Brussels to Sydney in 4.6 hours.
A European Space Agency study undertaken in 2007 explored using Skylon space planes to assemble a Mars transfer vehicle in Earth orbit, for a launch opportunity in 2028. Three of the six crewmembers would land on Mars and spend about 30 days there. The entire mission would take two years and eight months.

How Europe’s ExoMars Missions to Mars Work (Infographic)

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How Europe’s ExoMars Missions to Mars Work (Infographic)
  • How Europe's ExoMars Missions to Mars Work (Infographic)
The European Space Agency’s ExoMars project involves an orbiter, lander and rover, launched on two separate Proton rockets.

Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist

Exobiology on Mars (ExoMars) is an ambitious mission being undertaken by the European Space Agency and its international partners. In 2016, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli lander will be launched on a Russian Proton rocket. In 2018, the ExoMars rover will be launched.

TGO’s mission is to sniff Mars’ atmosphere for evidence of methane, a gas with implications for the existence of life on the Red Planet. Schiaparelli’s main purpose is to demonstrate Mars-landing technology. It is expected to survive only a few days on the surface, running off of its internal batteries. The little lander is 5.4 feet (1.65 m) in diameter and weighs just 1,323 lbs. (600 kg).

Set to be launced on a Russian Proton rocket in 2018, the golf-cart-size ExoMars rover will spend six months searching for signs of present or extict life on Mars.

The rover’s onboard biology laboratory looks for molecules indicative of life, while its 6.6-foot (2.2 m) surface drill brings up samples for analysis. A tall mast carries the panoramic camera system (PanCam) with twin lenses for stereoscopic imaging. Ground-penetrating radar looks for ice under the surface.

Inflatable Space Stations of Bigelow Aerospace (Infographic)

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Inflatable Space Stations of Bigelow Aerospace (Infographic)