New space technology, which could revolutionise how space shuttles get into space, has received significant investment from the European Space Agency.

The Skylon, which uses Sabre rocket technology, is a UK innovation created by Reaction Engines, alongside researchers and engineers from EADS Astrium, the University of Bristol and DLR, the German aerospace centre.

Breathable rocket

The ESA has confirmed it has given a £900,000 boost to Reaction Engines, bringing the total money received to £6 million.

The company hopes to demonstrate its rocket's horizontal take-off by 2011, with it fully functional in 10 years' time.

The rocket has been 'coined' as breathable, as it burns hydrogen and oxygen to provide thrust.

Lord Drayson, the UK minister for science and innovation, was very pleased with the news: "It is fantastic that Reaction Engines, the British National Space Centre and ESA have successfully secured this public-private partnership arrangement," he said.

Reaction Engines managing director Alan Bond was equally happy, commenting: "Years of research on Skylon and its Sabre engine mean we have an inside track on realising [our] goal."