How the British Skylon Space Plane Works (Infographic)

Details of the Skylon space plane.
The British company Reaction Engines Ltd. hopes to manufacture Skylon, a runway-to-orbit space plane using hybrid air-breathing rocket engines. (Image 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 Space Plane in Pictures


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.

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Karl Tate contributor

Karl's association with goes back to 2000, when he was hired to produce interactive Flash graphics. From 2010 to 2016, Karl worked as an infographics specialist across all editorial properties of Purch (formerly known as TechMediaNetwork).  Before joining, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University and now works as a freelance graphic designer in New York City.