"This supersonic aircraft... would be able to take off from any runway in the world, accelerate to five times the speed of sound using a hybrid jet-rocket engine, then transition to rocket mode to break through the Earth’s orbit and reach outer space. After dropping off a payload of satellites, astronauts... the Skylon could return to land on the same runway less than 48 hours later. Used as a traditional aircraft, the Skylon could take 300 passengers from London to Sydney in four hours."
That's from Slate's Jeremy Stahl, who rounds up a bunch of sceptical reactions:
Once again, the future as simply too expensive for us to afford. Too risky an investment.
Interesting, in re. the Entrepreneurial State / David Graeber arguments about the role of public investment and long-term mindset in innovation, that SABRE/Skylon is a collaboration between the public sector and private investors. In other words, capitalism on its own would never develop such a spectacular, reality-rearranging technology.
The Slate piece is also interesting on the history of Concorde (a spectacular achievement, financially a huge flop) and on similar rival supersonic aircraft and son-of-Concorde schemes...