A new hypersonic aircraft could ferry passengers anywhere in the world in under three hours.
- Travelling at up to 3,800 miles an hour, more than six times the speed of a typical commercial jet and twice as fast as a supersonic aircraft, it has been developed for the Chinese military, but could be used for passengers.
- The aircraft will have two sets of wings that use one another to reduce turbulence and drag.
- Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences say they have tested a scaled-down model of the hypersonic jet in a wind tunnel, where it reached a top speed of 5,343mph.
Writing in the Physics, Mechanics and Astronomy journal, Cui Kai said: “It will take only a couple of hours to travel from Beijing to New York at hypersonic speed.
“This could provide more convenient and efficient transportation than present subsonic airplanes for long-distance journeys in future.'
What is hypersonic travel?
It is loosely defined as "Mach 5", or five times faster than the speed of sound, which would be 6,200km per hour at sea level.
Why is it difficult to achieve?
In hypersonic travel, temperatures get so hot that the air molecules become unstable and start losing electrons. The air begins to change chemically and becomes an electrically-charged field.
How close are we?
So far, most hypersonic test flights have been unmanned and experimental, and have lasted for no more than a couple of minutes
The X-15, operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration secured the official world record for the highest speed ever reached by a manned, powered aircraft. Its maximum speed was 4,520 miles per hour or Mach 6.72.
When was the first recorded hypersonic flight?
The V-2 rocket, first used in World War II by Nazi Germany, reached a maximum velocity of 5,150 miles per hour - more than five times the speed of sound.
What's faster than hypersonic?
Hypersonic is an open-ended term. However, 'warp speed', as suggested by the Star Trek series, would be faster. Warp 9.6 is 1,909 times the speed of light.
Boom Supersonic has had a helping hand from Sir Richard Branson. Virgin Atlantic has an option for 10 of the aircraft, while Virgin Galactic, the company's space-travel wing, will be involved in the testing process.
Where are we with supersonic flight??
Last November, ambitious aviation company Boom Technology - a Colorado-based start up - said it was nearly ready to test a passenger jet capable of breaking the sound barrier.
According to the firm's CEO, Blake Scholl, a prototype of its “Boom Supersonic” plane will be in the sky as early as the end of 2018. Furthermore, he says, the company has already received more than 70 offers, from five different (unidentified) carriers, for an aircraft that could be in commercial service by the middle of the next decade.
Speaking at the Dubai Airshow last year, Mr Scholl declared that the firm's XB-1 jet - which it has nicknamed “Baby Boom” - will revolutionise the way we travel.
“Think about for a moment the families that are separated because of the long flights,” he said. “Think about the trips not taken because when you add up the lost hours, the trip just doesn't feel worth it.”
“That's where we come in. We are a team of engineers and technologists, brought together for the sole purpose of making our world dramatically more accessible.”
China are also responsible for developing the world’s fastest wind tunnel to simulate flight speeds of up to 12 kilometers per second.
This means a Chinese hypersonic vehicle would take just 14 minutes to reach the west coast of the of the US.
Source: Express, 2018
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