There are so many places you’d like to see in the world, so many other cultures you’d love to experience but whilst one off putting factor is cost, another is the thought of being trapped for an unbearable length of time in a scratchy plane seat, with your knees feeling like they’re merging with the seat in front of you and a stranger beside you with no concept of personal space. We could almost handle the discomfort of air travel if some destinations didn’t take so long to get to.
We were pretty happy to hear, then, that a team of US and Australian military researchers have been trialing hypersonic technology in the Australian desert that could one day result in flights from London to Sydney taking as little as two hours.
The project is called Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation and its team are running a series of ten tests in their efforts to create an engine that can fly reliably at a speed on Mach 7. On Wednesday they were able to successfully send a scramjet attached to a rocket booster 278 kilometers into the air where it reached a top speed of Mach 7.5. This is more than five times faster than the speed of sound and actually qualifies as hypersonic flight.
The team have been testing the technology since 2009, with the next test due in 2017 and the project completion set for 2018. Each test has been designed to build upon the previous one in order to achieve not just hypersonic speeds, but to achieve them reliably. The latest test was used to measure the heat on the outside of a vehicle in hypersonic flight and the next one will see the rocket booster detach from the scramjet so that it can fly on its own.
The scientists say that though the most practical application is making it possible to travel across the world very quickly, they also think the technology could be a useful alternative to rockets for sending satellites into space.
According to Australia’s chief scientist Alex Zelinsky, “It is a game-changing technology… and could revolutionise global air travel, providing cost-effective access to space.” Well, we’ve got our bags packed.