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Some time in the middle of the next decade a revolutionary new engine will propel a reusable space plane called Skylon towards the heavens, hopefully changing the way we escape our atmosphere for ever.

The Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) isn't a product of Nasa or a super-wealthy space entrepreneur. It's the brainchild of a quiet, British engineer called Alan Bond. And, from its base in a science park near Oxford, his company Reaction Engines is getting closer to perfecting its design. Bond has spent his working life trying to solve a problem that most people haven't even considered; space crafts powered by traditional rockets are far too expensive and unreliable, and will never provide humankind with the tools to explore our solar system and beyond.

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