Across The World in One to Three Hours in Hypersonic Aircraft

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(— February 5, 2018) –Supersonic airplanes haven’t been news for decades. The new word in fast transportation is hypersonic travel. The aerospace nautical giant Boeing is ready to build a prototype of a hypersonic aircraft that is able to travel at Mach 5 speeds where Mach 1 is the speed of sound which is 332 m/s or 1195 km/hr or 717 miles/hour.

Although the Boeing company is developing hypersonic aircrafts for the US military, it is easy to understand the benefits of civil transportation where passengers can fly across the ocean at twice the speed of a Concorde, or even faster. Imagine you wake up in the US, then fly to Asia for a business meeting, have lunch there and get back home in time for diner.

So basically you can get anywhere in the world crossing the Atlantic in an hour or the Pacific Ocean in two hours.

Those speeds, however demand completely new heath sustainable materials to build such an airplane, but the engine technology is already here, and it has been for decades. The scramjet (supersonic combusting ramjet) turbine does not need blades to compress air and induce fuel ignition inside the jet engine because the speed of a hypersonic airplane would push the air itself. The airplane, however, needs a conventional way for it to take off the runway so it would also need the turbine blades that would melt at hypersonic speeds.

To combat this problem, a new hypersonic aircraft would need to have a system that diverts air from its blades at low speed and to scramjet at higher speeds. The design for the aircraft, thought to be named “Valkyrie II,” was first unveiled at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech forum in Orlando, Russia Today reports, citing Aviation Week. Shaped like a dolphin it not only reduces the drag but also “rides on air waves” as dolphins ride on water waves.

Since the aircraft would be speeding through the air at twice the speed of a speeding bullet, the friction would induce temperatures that require ceramic materials for its hull, similar to those used in space shuttles to withstand the heating that comes from entering the atmosphere. Also, Boeing’s hypersonic aircraft would be made of high end materials such as Nickel.

The size of the civil transportation version would be larger than a Boeing 747 and the fuel consumption would be much higher. Thus the ticket price for a hypersonic ride would be adequately costlier. Those are the downsides, but we learned from the Concorde project that when it comes to long distance travel, speed overrides the economic factor.

Engineers behind the Valkyrie II project claim that they will be ready to build a prototype within the next five years, and start the production of a military version in next 15-20 years.

Hypersonic aircraft concepts for military purposes are being widely reviewed in other countries too. The Chinese military has successfully flight-tested a new ballistic missile-launched hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), as a response to Washington’s growing military footprint in Asia.