Hypersonic Breakthrough Means Breakfast in New York Lunch in Tokyo

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Reaction-Engines-Skylon-SABRE
Reaction Engines Limited Rendering of Its Hypersonic Skylon Aircraft

Hypersonic flight, a longtime dream of commercial and private airplane makers, maybe inching closer to reality.

Enter Reaction Engines Limited – a British company, says it has made “the biggest breakthrough in aerospace propulsion technology since the invention of the jet engine.”

Reaction Engines Limited says its hypersonic engine will send us streaking across the sky at speeds well over Mach 5, allowing us to have bagels for breakfast in New York and sushi for lunch in Tokyo. The hypersonic engine design reportedly includes new ways of cooling the air for an engine that will use oxygen in the atmosphere up to Mach 5.5  before switching to rocket power for the ride in space.

The challenge of attaining Mach 5.5 is propulsion. At speeds beyond Mach 2 or so, a jet engine has trouble getting the oxygen needed for combustion. It’s akin to trying to take a deep breath by sticking your head out the window at 200 mph.

Reaction Engines claims it’s cracked the problem with a design that would allow an airplane to take off, reach orbit using a combination of an air-breathing engine and rocket, then return to Earth. The secret is cooling the air as it enters the hypersonic SABRE engine.

“The pre-cooler technology is designed to cool the incoming airstream from over 1,000 Celsius to minus 150 Celsius in less than 1/100th of a second, without blocking with frost,” the company claimed in its press release.

The European Space Agency says it has evaluated the pre-cooler design and says it is satisfied that the design should move forward. The agency is negotiating a contract to help support the further development of Reaction Engines’ design and it hopes to have a sub-scale ground engine running by 2015.

SOURCE: Wired

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13 Responses to Hypersonic Breakthrough Means Breakfast in New York Lunch in Tokyo

  1. Brigadoon says:

    Speeds like this would mean JFK to Cape Town in 2 hours and LAX to Sydney in under 3 hours. Fifteen hour flights would become a thing of the past. The business community would love the convenience and the casual flyer would arrive rested and ready for vacation. I can’t wait to fly this fast.

  2. Joe in Colorado says:

    I wonder if the fares will be higher for a hypersonic flight? Like the ultimate difference between First class and coach?

  3. feminazi says:

    If I could reach Australia in 2 or 3 hours, I would plan to go. The grueling flight from the east coast to the west coast and then 16 hours from Los Angeles to Sydney is the reason I haven’t gone.

  4. Harry says:

    Mach 5.5? Wow! That’s all I can say is wow!

  5. TOM339 says:

    One of the problems with supersonic flight over land was the annoying sonic boom.

    Air France used to fly from Houston to Dulles and then Paris but the Houston to Dulles portion of the flight had to fly at regular airliner speed. None of this was practical.

    A sub-orbital flight would fly so high there would not be a sonic boom. Now, if they can get the seat costs down to a level where large numbers of people can afford to fly Skylon.

  6. I would imagine you would need to take out a second mortgage to afford a ticket on that plane.

  7. Marcus Ybanez says:

    Where are the windows on the plane?

    I don’t know about all of you but, the idea of flying in a jet five times the the speed of sound without any windows would freak me the hell out. Give me windows to look out of.

  8. Mauigirl says:

    I’m still holding out for the Star Trek transporter.

  9. stradella says:

    Oh honey, Mach 5 is too fast for me. I get nervous when my Southwest flight leaves the ground and climbs into the sky.

    I don’t think happy humans headed to Disneyworld and Las Vegas, and businessmen off to meetings, were meant to fly this fast. Maybe I’m just 20th century old school but this technology ain’t for me.

  10. DMason says:

    stradella – We should go to Sydney when the Skylon begins service. I’ll hold your hand on take off and on landing. In three hours, we’re there. No seventeen hour flights! Think about it.

  11. Fran says:

    So now the check in process, pat down, x ray, baggage check in & distances across mega airports to get to the correct terminal, will take longer than it takes to fly across the world?

  12. Mets Fan says:

    Los Angeles to Sydney on the Mach 5.5 Skylon: One-Way $65,000.

    Operating a sub orbital bird like this ain’t cheap and passengers will have to pay vast fares to cover the multiple propulsion systems and fuels.

  13. ultra says:

    It will use rocket power for the ride in space? How safe would that be? I bet the insurance costs alone would be astronomical.

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