Remember the Concorde? That ultra futuristic aeroplane (actually ‘supersonic passenger airliner’) that debuted in the late 70s, and changed the face of commercial aviation till it was discontinued in 2003 after a series of crashes? Well, it may be coming back. Reaction Engines Limited, a company based in Oxfordshire, England, is looking to launch a hypersonic flight that greatly exceeds the speed of sound, resulting in a flight time of just 60 minutes from London to Mumbai.
The birth of Hypersonic Travel
The flight is yet to be launched. Actually, the aircraft is yet to be built. Something on this scale can’t be cheap – and it isn’t. But if done right, this new hypersonic flight will rival the times of the now legendary Concorde. The direct flight sans any layovers will have the capacity to travel 38,800 miles per hour – that’s greater than Mach 5. Reaction Engines Limited has already reported that it has successfully tested the hypersonic flight’s engine cooling system, and found no glitches so far. It may not sound impressive, but that is actually one of the most integral parts of the engine that ensures stability and, most importantly, safety.
The application of flight
According to the company, the engine that is being developed under the SABRE program can also operate in a rocket mode outside the atmosphere, allowing the next generation of truly reusable space launch vehicles. SABRE powered vehicles will be capable of cutting the flight time from London to Australia to four and a half hours, or flying into orbit from a runway before returning to base and doing it all over again. SABRE will make the world smaller through high-speed point-to-point transport. To demonstrate the uses for SABRE in Mach 5 cruise applications, Reaction Engines engaged in a 50% EU-funded project as part of Framework 6, called LAPCAT — Long-term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies. This study examined the technologies required to reduce long-distance flights, e.g. From Brussels to Sydney, to just over 4 hours while cruising at Mach 5.
Is it cheap? Probably not.
The big question after all this fancy technology talk though, is how much is it going to cost to make the flight for the average consumer? Well, the company has not made any statement on the end-user ticket rates since the technology is still under development. But given its high tech premise, it definitely won’t be cheap. Once the top tier celebrities and global billionaires have their share of hypersonic travelling, hopefully, in the next decade, us mere mortals may (if we’re lucky) be able to afford the opportunity. To find out more about the technology, take a listen to Reaction Engine Limited’s CEO, Mark Thomas, in conversation with BBC correspondent Jonathan Amos below.
Does this sound exciting? Would you like to travel from London to Mumbai non-stop in just 60 minutes? Let us know what you think in the comments below.