Developmental supersonic jets such as the A2 could be a reality in just a few years, say experts
Leading figures in the aeropspace industry say new technology will “revolutionise travel” for millions and we are “on the brink of a new era in air transportation”.
There has been no commercial supersonic jet travel since Concorde was retired in 2003.
But a new generation of hypersonic planes will be more than twice as fast and could potentially fly from Britain to Australia in four hours.
The Oxford-based Reaction Engines is working with the European Space Agency and defence firm BAE Systems to make the dream a reality by 2020.
Its revolutionary Sabre concept engine is designed to power an aircraft up to Mach 5 before “transitioning” to rocket mode, blasting a craft into lower space orbit at Mach 25.
The new Sabre engine is hoped to make it easier and cheaper to get satellites into space
Meanwhile Nasa’s aeronautical program is set to focus on a new type of experimental aircraft
And in February, Nasa granted a contract to aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin for the design of an experimental plane that would reduce the sonic booms produced in supersonic flight.
If successful it could allow supersonic travel over land, which is currently banned in the US because of the noise on the ground.
Last week a panel of experts from Nasa, the US Air Force, Lockheed Martin and politics discussed recent technological breakthroughs and the challenges facing the industry.
Former US Air Force Major General Curtis M. Bedke said: “What’s exciting about aerospace today is that we are in a point here where suddenly, things are happening all across the board in areas that just haven’t been happening for quite a while.
An artist’s concept of a possible Low Boom Flight Demonstration Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) X-plane design by Nasa
The Lockheed Martin future supersonic advanced concept plane features two engines under the wings and one on top of the fuselage
“There was a period where engine technology had just sort of stagnated – a point where all materials technology was going along at about the same pace.
“There wasn’t much happening.
“But suddenly, in all sorts of areas that apply to aerospace, things are happening.”
Congressman Steve Knight, a member of the House Committee on Science, said the US has not gone hypersonic in a plane since 1967 when his dad William J. “Pete” Knight piloted the X-15 craft up to Mach 6.7 – a record that still stands today.
Despite two unpiloted hypersonic programs, X-51 and X-43, the work was not continued, but Knight hopes to see the data from these research programs used to push today’s developments
Major Gen Bedke added: “It is inevitable that hypersonic technologies are going to happen.
“It is not inevitable that we (the USA) are going to be the country to do it first.
“But we can be the country to do it first, but we’re going to have to put our minds to it, and we’re going to have to stop the history of fits and starts, of throwing money at a big program, achieving a wild success, and then having no follow-up.
“Or throwing a lot of money at too big a program, taking too giant a bite, failing miserably and then deciding hypersonics isn’t going anywhere.
“Neither of those must be allowed to happen in the coming years.”