An artist's impression of the A2 aircraft. British engineers have unveiled plans for a hypersonic jet which could fly from Europe to Australia in less than five hours.
Researchers may give a hand to jet-setting Europeans looking for a new place to get away for the weekend. European scientists have said a flight from Europe to Sydney in under five hours could be possible in 25 years.
NASA's engineers is also working on the X-43B will be able to fly at 100,000 feet and reach speeds of up to 3,750mph.The hypersonic jet would make it possible for people to fly anywhere in the world in less than two hours.Nasa project it
for commercial use within two decades. (Read bottom page)
The A2 plane, designed by engineering company Reaction Engines based in Oxfordshire, southern England, could carry 300 passengers at a top speed of almost 4,000 mph (6,400 kmh), five times the speed of sound.
The LAPCAT (Long-Term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies) project, backed by the European Space Agency, could see the plane operating within 25 years, the firm's boss Alan Bond told the Guardian daily.
"The A2 is designed to leave Brussels international airport, fly quietly and subsonically out into the north Atlantic at mach 0.9 before reaching mach 5 across the North Pole and heading over the Pacific to Australia," he said.
The plane, which at 143 meters (469 feet) long would be about twice the size of the biggest current jets, could fly non-stop for up to 12,500 miles (20,000 km). It would be lighter than current intercontinental planes and designed to operate on liquid hydrogen, which is seen as more ecologically friendly than the carbon emitted by today's planes.
It operates on liquid hydrogen, which is more ecologically friendly as it gives off water and nitrous oxide instead of carbon emissions.
Passengers would have to put up with having no windows, due to problems with heat produced at high speeds. Instead designers may put flat screen televisions where the windows would be, giving the impression of seeing outside.
Fares for the four-hour and 40-miute flight to Australia would be comparable with current first-class tickets on standard flights, of around 3,500 pounds (4,700 euros), researchers said. Flights from Europe to Australia now take about 22 hours.
The flight time from Brussels to Australia would be four hours and 40 minutes. "It sounds incredible by today's standards but I don't see why future generations can't make day trips to Australasia," he said.
Bond said he could imagine about 10 percent of air travel taking place on hypersonic jets by 2033. The noise associated with supersonic speeds would prevent the jet from flying over heavily populated areas, though the A2 could fly from Europe to California, across the Atlantic hypersonically then slow down at the US coast.
"Our work shows that it is possible technically; now it's up to the world to decide if it wants it."
Nasa X-43 Project
Mach 10 Experimental aircraft
The unpiloted X-43A made an 11-second powered flight, then went through some twists and turns during a six-minute glide before plunging into the Pacific Ocean about 400 miles off the California coast.
It's Official. X-43A Raises the Bar to Mach 9.6
Guinness World Records recognized NASA's X-43A scramjet with a new world speed record for a jet-powered aircraft - Mach 9.6, or nearly 7,000 mph. The X-43A set the new mark and broke its own world record on its third and final flight on Nov. 16, 2004.
In March 2004, the X-43A set the previous record of Mach 6.8 (nearly 5,000 mph). The fastest air-breathing, manned vehicle, the U.S. Air Force SR-71, achieved slightly more than Mach 3.2. The X-43A more than doubled, then tripled, the top speed of the jet-powered SR-71.
National Aeronautics & Space Administration
The first X-43A flight ended in failure June 2, 2001, after the modified Pegasus rocket used to accelerate the plane veered off course and was detonated. An investigation board found preflight analyses failed to predict how the rocket would perform, leaving its control system unable to maintain stable flight.
NASA built the X-43A under a $250 million program to develop and test an exotic type of engine called a supersonic-combustion ramjet, or scramjet.
In theory, the air-breathing engine could propel an airplane to speeds of Mach 7 or faster, enabling around-the-world flights that would take several hours. The Department of Defense also is working on the technology, which it's eyeing for use in bombers that quickly could reach targets anywhere on the globe.
The 12-foot-long, 2,800-pound X-43A was mounted on a Pegasus rocket booster and carried to an altitude of 40,000 feet by a modified B-52 bomber, which took off from Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert.
A few seconds after the craft was dropped, the rocket flared, sending the jet skyward on a streak of flame and light. At about 100,000 feet, the rocket dropped away.
The scramjet took over, using up about two pounds of gaseous hydrogen fuel before gliding. Applause rang out in the control center at Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards.
Technological hurdles mean it will be decades before such a plane could enter service. And NASA's role in developing the technology remains in doubt, as the agency recently cut funding for more advanced versions of the X-43A.
Engineers have pursued scramjet technology because it could allow rocket-speed travel but with considerable savings in weight. Rockets must carry their own oxygen to combust the fuel they carry aboard; scramjets can scoop it out of the atmosphere.
In scramjets, oxygen is rammed into a combustion chamber where it mixes with fuel and spontaneously ignites. To work, the engine must be traveling at about five times the speed of sound — requiring an initial boost that only a rocket can provide.
An artist's concept of an X-43B.
The engine concept will power the X-43C.
Air enters the engine after it is compressed by the fore body of the vehicle. Inside the engine, the air and fuel are mixed and burned at supersonic speeds. The combustion products are then expanded in the nozzle and along the aft surface of the aircraft to produce the required thrust. In order to cool the engine, liquid fuel is first circulated through the engine structure, where it is conditioned to a gaseous state, prior to injection into the combustor section
Nasa has unveiled its designs for a new hypersonic jet which could fly passengers between 'global skyports'.
Engineers hope the X-43B will be able to fly at 100,000 feet and reach speeds of up to 3,750mph.
The hypersonic jet would make it possible for people to fly anywhere in the world in less than two hours.
Nasa says a prototype could be ready for testing by 2010 and for commercial use within two decades.
Two other hypersonic vehicles are also being developed, but the X-43B is the largest of the planned fleet.
An X-43A unmanned craft, intended to travel at 7,500mph, had its maiden flight aborted in 2001. Two more prototypes are being prepared for test flights.
The X-43C, powered by a scramjet engine, is also in development. Nasa hopes to start flight-tests in 2008.
Researchers say the X-43B could lead to a future fleet of government and commercial hypersonic vehicles, traveling between dozens or even hundreds of 'skyports' around the world and into space.
The X-43 program was originally intended to feature two additional vehicles. As envisioned, the X-43B would demonstrate an engine capable of operating in several modes. The X-43B’s combined cycle engine would function as a normal turbojet at low altitudes and switch to scramjet mode at high altitudes and speeds. Planned X-43B flights were to occur sometime in 2009 after the completion of another Hyper-X test vehicle, the X-43C. The X-43C was intended to demonstrate the operation of a solid hydrocarbon-burning scramjet engine at speeds between Mach 5 and 7 sometime in 2008.
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