If you had two hours to kill, what would be better than taking a little trip to New York? Not possible? Well, maybe it will be soon. At least that is what the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing is working on, who has just revealed a project that is as promising as it is ambitious, a hypersonic plane that is capable of reaching speeds of up to 6,000km/h. These speeds would make it possible to get from New York to London in just under 120 minutes.
This speed that is also known as Mach 5, is five times the speed of sound which is the famous 'wall' that makes a loud, characteristic bang when it is hit. To be able to reach five times this limit, the American manufacturer has experienced some incredible physics-related challenges. One of those being the heat that would be generated in the main section of the airplane caused by air friction. The solution that they came up with was to cover it with titanium so that it would be resistant to very high temperatures of nearly 6,000°C.
A futuristic machine
Although it is still in the concept stage of development, we first got a glance of this future machine during a conference held by Boeing in the 2018 Aviation and Aeronautics Forum in Atlanta in the United States. From an artistic point of view, it looks like a very futuristic airplane, equipped with a dual tail, wings that bend backwards and an extremely pointy nose, all of which are characteristics which make it look like a space shuttle.
It has to be said that this is not going to be an easy thing to achieve. The American Space Agency is also working on developing an experimental aircraft for the hypersonic transport of passengers. Known as 'X-59 QueSST', this machine would even allow NASA to test different methods to reduce the famous 'bang' that occurs when you hit the speed of sound.
Other businesses such as Virgin Galactic and Boom for example, are also working towards this goal and are also trying to develop an airplane that is capable of flying at Mach 2. Even Spike Aerospace, who hopes to be able to almost completely get rid of the supersonic bang by aerodynamically refining its S-512 Quiet Supersonic Jet, is getting in on this exciting mission.
Still quite far off
As promising as they might be, all of these projects won’t be finalised for many years. The technical achievement is still daunting and passenger transport could also create a number of challenges for the manufacturer. For Boeing, the dream of being able to fly at Mach 5 speed could become a reality in just twenty to thirty years. This seems quite far off, but people are still very enthusiastic and excited about the prospects.
'We are excited about the potential of hypersonic technology to connect the world faster than ever before,' said Kevin Bowcutt, senior technical fellow and chief scientist of hyper sonics at Boeing. Connecting the world is obviously their main motivation, but these projects could also create more opportunities from a military point of view. 'Technologically we could have an [operational military] hypersonic aircraft, such as an ISR, flying in 10 years,' say some leading figures of the project in a press release.
This is following on from research that was originally done by the US military a few years ago, when they first tested hypersonic weapons that were capable of reaching speeds up to twenty times the speed of sound. Between aggressive intentions and peaceful plans, businesses don’t seem to be holding back and are instead taking advantage of this same technology, be it for better or for worse.
Check out the video above for more!