NASA wants to build a jet so fast you can fly to any city in six hours

Mar 1, 2016

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

By Matt McFarland

Sitting cramped in coach on a long flight can be unbearable. And NASA feels your pain. The agency is funding early efforts to build a plane so fast it could whisk you to any city on the planet in six hours or less.

NASA is giving Lockheed Martin about $20 million in a preliminary design contract to demonstrate a “low boom” aircraft.

When planes exceed the speed of sound — 767.269 mph — they generate what NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden described as an “annoying boom” at a news conference Monday. Because of this, supersonic flight is prohibited over the United States.

NASA envisions a plane that emits a quieter sonic boom, more like a subtle thump. If supersonic flights were quiet enough to be allowed widely, the appeal of shorter flight times would likely be appealing to travelers.


Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

10 comments on “NASA wants to build a jet so fast you can fly to any city in six hours

  • Such a jet would be used only by the superrich and would produce huge amounts of greenhouse gases.
    It is an invention we should postpone until we have hypdrogen powered jets.
    Report abuse

  • Concord was unnecessarily noisy, because designers at that time were in denial of environmental considerations!

    @OP – Sitting cramped in coach on a long flight can be unbearable. And NASA feels your pain. The agency is funding early efforts to build a plane so fast it could whisk you to any city on the planet in six hours or less.

    Some of the details on this are rather sketchy!

    Roedy #1
    Mar 1, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Such a jet would be used only by the super-rich and would produce huge amounts of greenhouse gases.
    It is an invention we should postpone until we have hydrogen powered jets.

    There are already European proposals for hydrogen powered jets, which are faster than this NASA proposal, using the Scimitar pre-cooled engine, a derivative of the Skylon SABRE engine.

    http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/lapcat.html

    As an example of the applicability of REL’s SABRE engine and lightweight heat exchanger technology to Mach 5 cruise, REL is presently engaged on an EU 50% funded project as part of Framework 6 called LAPCAT — Long-term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies. This study is to examine the propulsion concepts and technologies required

    “…to reduce long-distance flights, e.g. From Brussels to Sydney, to less than 2 to 4 hours. Achieving this goal intrinsically requires a new flight regime for commercial transport with Mach numbers ranging from 4 to 8.”

    To fulfil this mission, a hypersonic aircraft with near antipodal range (20,000 km) is required. To achieve the range requirement liquid hydrogen fuel is mandatory since the specific calorific energy of hydrocarbon fuels is too low.

    Both SABRE and Scimitar engines are designed around existing technologies from gas turbines, rockets and subsonic ramjets.
    As Scimitar is designed for sustained Mach 5 cruise it is designed for much longer life than SABRE engines designed for space access.

    The A2 vehicle, which is designed to be propelled by the Scimitar engine, has exceptional range (ca. 20,000 km both subsonic and supersonic) and is therefore able to service a large number of routes whilst simultaneously avoiding supersonic overflight of populated areas and the related sonic booms that can be heard on the ground. Its good subsonic performance enables it to service conventional subsonic overland routes.
    Report abuse

  • 3
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    @alan4discussion

    REL is presently engaged on an EU 50% funded project as part of Framework 6 called LAPCAT

    This is fascinating technology. The Lapcat A2 looks interesting and I know it’s just a concept plane but I can already see problems: the airframe has a very small wing surface area in relation to its weight and size. This gives it a low lift-to-weight ratio which means a much longer runway is required for liftoff and landing. It also translates into dangerously low maneuverability at low speeds.

    The Concorde had a delta wing configuration that ran almost the entire length of the fuselage for a good reason.

    The canard wing pitch control surface at the front of the aircraft is a great design idea. However, they would also need to have a larger area to be effective. Another issue is that the plane would be carrying almost 200 tons of liquid hydrogen almost all of which would be located in the fuselage tanks because the cross-section of the wings needs to be small.

    One little puncture or spark in the wrong place and this plane would turn into the 21st century version of the Hindenburg Zeppelin disaster of 1937…. but much much worse since the hydrogen fuel is in liquid form.
    Report abuse

  • NearlyNakedApe #3
    Mar 2, 2016 at 11:47 am

    One little puncture or spark in the wrong place and this plane would turn into the 21st century version of the Hindenburg Zeppelin disaster of 1937…. but much much worse since the hydrogen fuel is in liquid form.

    Hydrogen certainly is prone to leaks and needs to be handled carefully, but the space-agencies have decades of experience in handling cryogenic hydrogen, and these flights by their nature, will be of short duration between major airport facilities.
    Report abuse

  • Hypersonic jet stories come along more often than the Number 25 bus. At least one every three months since the early 1980s. I will pay attention when one turns into something more than pretty concept artwork.
    Report abuse

  • paulmcuk #5
    Mar 2, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    Hypersonic jet stories come along more often than the Number 25 bus. At least one every three months since the early 1980s. I will pay attention when one turns into something more than pretty concept artwork.

    The SKYLON and LAPCAT designs are in fact Alan Bond’s modern up-dated designs of the HOTOL concept of the 1980s.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HOTOL#Development
    The ideas behind HOTOL originated from work done by Alan Bond for precooled jet engines which he had done specifically with the intention of powering a launch system.[4]

    Formal development began with government funding in 1982. The design team was a joint effort between Rolls-Royce and British Aerospace led by John Scott-Scott and Dr Bob Parkinson. About the same time, the Rockwell X-30 scramjet programme was announced in America.
    Report abuse

  • Plus getting to the airport, 2 or 3 hours before departure time, and getting thru passport control, waiting for the baggage and going thru custom, say 90 minutes to 2 hours after landing, and then travel from the airport to said city, lets see that’s 11 hours and counting…..

    Sorry, yes, great idea for somebody. Not for those who currently go longhaul in coach, that’s for sure.
    Report abuse

  • -hydrogen fuel-

    @ #4 – flights […] will be of short duration

    Not sure I follow how this would be relevant to accidents (or lack of).
    Report abuse

  • bonnie #9
    Mar 5, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    -hydrogen fuel-

    @ #4 – flights […] will be of short duration

    Not sure I follow how this would be relevant to accidents (or lack of).

    Cryogenic liquid hydrogen has to be kept at very low temperatures, and once warmed up and gaseous, is very prone to leaking and exploding.
    It is much easier on a fast moving aircraft or rocket, to keep it cold for a short time, rather than a long time!
    At a ground-based fuel storage facility, heavy refrigeration gear and thick containers can be used.
    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.