This Rocket-powered Plane Could Fly From New York to Sydney in Less Than 90 Minutes
But it has a long way to go before becoming a reality.
Supersonic airplanes are old news. But supersonic airplanes that can fly nine times the speed of sound? That's something else.
Texas-based company Venus Aerospace is designing a passenger plane called Stargazer that's capable of flying at Mach 9, or approximately 6,900 miles per hour — which means you'd be able to fly from New York to Sydney in less than 90 minutes. By comparison, the Concorde, which was the only supersonic passenger plane ever to fly commercially, flew at about Mach 2, or more than 1,500 miles per hour.
Now, there's never been a plane faster than Mach 6.7 — a speed that was accomplished by the North American X-15 experimental aircraft in 1967, according to NASA. And the only "real" plane (not an experimental one) to get even remotely close to that speed is the Lockheed SR-71, known informally as Blackbird, a reconnaissance aircraft that flew at Mach 3.2, NASA also reported.
Rockets, however, regularly break Mach 9, as you need to travel around 17,000 miles per hour (roughly Mach 22) to reach low Earth orbit, according to Space.com. So it comes as little surprise that Stargazer will be a rocket-powered aircraft.
Stargazer will take off and land like regular planes, using jet engines to do so.
"Rocket engines are way too loud to use at airports," Venus Aerospace co-founder and CTO Andrew Duggleby told T+L. "Once at altitude and away from a city center, the rotating detonation rocket engines will ignite and accelerate the aircraft to Mach 9 and 170,000 feet over ten minutes."
Once the rotating detonation rocket engines, or RDREs, are lit in flight, Stargazer's acceleration won't be as intense as you might expect. In fact, the g-force, a measure of acceleration, will be lower than what you experience on some high-speed roller coasters. "The acceleration will be roughly 0.5 to 1 g and will feel only slightly more than what you feel right now during takeoff of a regular jet aircraft," said Duggleby.
The RDREs are key to the whole operation — in a nutshell, these engines operate with continuous supersonic combustion, which makes them highly fuel efficient. Only a handful of companies have successfully built and tested RDREs, and Venus Aerospace is one of them.
The RDREs have been ignited in static tests on the ground, but now it's time for Venus Aerospace to get in the air. "Next, we are building our first supersonic drone and will get into flight this summer," said Duggleby.
There's still plenty of research and development ahead of Venus Aerospace before Stargazer becomes a reality, but we sure hope to fly in that aircraft one day.
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