A series of next-generation super planes are currently being designed that promise to transform flight as early as 2020.
|Reaction Engines' Skylon superjet has just been supplied funding by the UK government.|
The brainchild of Reaction Engines and BAE Systems, the Skylon super plane is a hypersonic aircraft that utilises a pair of revolutionary Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engines. Dubbed SABRE, these aerospace engines allow the aircraft to operate both in the Earth’s lower stratosphere - the layer that most commercial jets operate in - and also in low Earth orbit.
|A cutaway image of a SABRE engine. A series of internal heat exchangers cool hot airstreams incredibly fast.|
|One of the unique selling points with Skylon is its ability to take off and land at standard, commercial airports.|
|Is the Aerion AS2 going to be the new Concorde?|
Costing over $100 million (£60m) and set for launch in 2019, the Aerion AS2 is another superjet with slightly more modest goals. Pitched as a business jet, the AS2 looks like it wants to be the new Concorde, with the aircraft looking like it and featuring some similar specifications. For example, the AS2 is capable of flying at up to 1,217mph (Concorde could fly up to 1,350mph) and can complete a journey from London to New York in just 3 hours (Concorde’s record was 2 hours 54 minutes and 30 seconds).
|The AS2 will be constructed primarily from carbon fibre composite materials.|
|The N+2 has been designed for mass commercial transport, with its cabin housing 80 passengers.|
One of the biggest problems engineers have faced in bringing supersonic flight back and developing it further is the issue of sonic booms. Sonic booms are caused when violent disturbances of air pressure around a plane travelling faster than the speed of sound merge to form enormous shock waves. These shock waves create the thunderous sonic booms that became famous thanks to Concorde. The problem is that they are so loud that right now legislation is in place that forbids jets to fly over land, as the booms are deemed to loud to be exposed to the public.
|The tri-engine design, with one on top and two below, reduces the sonic boom effect significantly.|