Scientists have started testing a new engine that's capable of launching a plane into space - and could make it possible to travel to anywhere on earth in just four hours.

The Daily Mail reports that the Skylon spaceplane would take off and land from a normal runway, but would then climb to 18 miles above the ground, and would travel outside the Earth's atmosphere at five times the speed of sound.

Its developers, Reaction Engines Limited (REL), based in Culham, Oxfordshire, are now carrying out tests on the Sabre engine, which can operate like a normal engine then switch to rocket mode, before unveiling it at the Farnborough International Air Show.

When the crucial tests are completed, REL hope to approach investors to raise the £250m needed to begin the final design phase.

REL managing director Alan Bond told the BBC: "We can reduce the world to four hours - the maximum times it would take to go anywhere. And that it also gives us an aircraft that can go into space, replacing all the expendable rockets we use today."

So far, 85 per cent of the funding for the project has come from private investors, but the company may need government support to raise all the necessary funds.

Watch the animation below to see exactly how the Skylon spaceplane would work...




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