David Shukman and Skylon engine cooling
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Revolutionary space engine system for Skylon tested

27 April 2012 Last updated at 11:38 BST

British engineers have begun a crucial series of tests of an experimental engine technology that its designers believe could revolutionise space travel.

The Skylon project is a concept for a spaceplane which could fly from runway to orbit in a single stage.

The key is a unique design for an engine that operates as a jet and rocket motor combined.

The critical component is a specially-designed cooling system to handle the high temperatures of rapidly-flowing air.

David Shukman was given exclusive access to the tests at Culham Science Park in Oxfordshire.