Astronautics and space engineering MSc student Lolan Naicker approached the advanced space transportation and propulsion design company Reaction Engines Ltd, to see if he could help contribute to the project as part of his individual research project.
Reaction Engines is designing the Skylon space plane (pictured), which could potentially save the space industry billions of pounds ayear.
Unlike current launch vehicles, the Skylon has been designed to take off and land on a runway and, unlike the space shuttle, it is fully reusable and would not need to shed expensive equipment such as an external tank or solid rocket motors during its ascent.
Skylon is a fully autonomous vehicle so it can be controlled remotely from Earth. It is ten metres longer than the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner, and has been designed to carry a pilot and passengers if required.
Mr Naicker has until September to complete an engine design. He said: “It has been overwhelming as I did not expect to get such an opportunity when I first approached the company.
"I am now contributing to one of the most innovative and promising space vehicle designs around and I get to work with very highly regarded rocket engineers in the process. It is an excellent experience overall and I am honoured to be a part of it.”
Reaction Engines director Alan Bond said: “It is rare we are in a position to offer students projects that are part of the main design of a real vehicle but always exciting when we can.”