Reaction Engines, the U.K.-based developer of the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) for hypersonic aircraft and multi-stage space launch vehicles, is establishing a U.S.-based subsidiary to enable closer engagement with potential American government and industry partners.                                                                       

The formation of the U.S. subsidiary, which will be headquartered in Colorado, comes amid increasing interest in the Sabre from the U.S. Air Force, which is studying potential applications and developments of the combined propulsion system concept. “The establishment of a U.S. office is the obvious next step for us,” Reaction CEO Mark Thomas says. The move builds on work “done under a collaborative research and development agreement with future export markets in mind,” he adds.

Reaction’s Colorado unit will be headed by Adam Dissel, a former system architect for responsive space at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The company has also appointed Mark Wood, the former engineering director for Safran Power Engineering in the U.K., to the newly created role of chief operating officer and engineering director. Wood will be based at Reaction’s site in Culham, Oxfordshire.

The Air Force Research Laboratory is particularly interested in the heat exchanger technology at the heart of the Saber engine, which is designed to power a vehicle from standstill on the runway to around Mach 5.5 in air-breathing mode before transitioning to rocket mode for the jump to low Earth orbit. The potential capability of the cycle, which harvests oxygen from the atmosphere through an innovative heat exchanger system, has also attracted interest in its use as a propulsion system for atmospheric hypersonic vehicles as well as space transports.

Stakeholders in Reaction include BAE Systems, which in 2015 acquired a 20% share for £20.6 million ($26.7 million). The company also recently received European Commission approval for a $93 million U.K. government research and development grant as it begins to transition to a production-focused company.