Skylon rocket plane pushes the limits of aviation

Despite the savage cuts suffered by many space exploration programs, we've come across some remarkable projects recently - such as the pioneering settlement on Mars - that prove that the interest in pushing the boundaries of air and space travel is pretty much alive.

The latest venture to make the headlines is the Skylon, a revolutionary aircraft that after taking off from any ordinary runway as any other plane, can then turn into a rocket, speeding up at 19,000 miles per hour to reach orbit in a single stage.

Thanks to a revolutionary cooling system that promises to transform high-speed aviation, the Skylon not only could carry 300 people into stratosphere in the matter of 15 minutes, but could also take them from Europe to Australia in about 4 hours. As the rocket aircraft's chief designer Alan Bond explains, the potentials of this ground-breaking venture are endless: "Once you've got access to space on that basis, that is the stepping stone to anywhere in the universe and a very exciting future for the human race."

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts has confirmed that the UK government will be partially funding the project with a £60m investment to be used in the development the Skylon's SABRE engine. The aircraft will most likely become a direct competitor of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, a rocket engine-powered spaceship designed to carry tourists into space, which has successfully undergone its first test-flight only a couple of months ago.

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