Boeing's Hypersonic Plane Design Travels at 5 Times the Speed of Sound

Tuesday, 16 January 2018 - 6:32PM
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Military Tech
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 - 6:32PM
Boeing's Hypersonic Plane Design Travels at 5 Times the Speed of Sound
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The world is about to get a lot smaller, as a major aerospace company makes a move towards creating superfast air travel.

Boeing's "Son of Blackbird", designed as a successor to the SR-71-Blackbird, isn't a reality just yet, but early concept designs for the plane suggest that it could reach speeds of up to Mach Five, or 3,836 miles per hour. To put this into context, the original Blackbird is capable of 2,200 mph, while the average commercial jet will only make it to around 560 mph.

Flying at Mach Five isn't a big deal - plane prototypes have managed it before. The big challenge is actually getting a plane up to that speed, and then decelerating afterwards so that it can land safely. In the words of Boeing's chief scientist for hypersonics, Kevin Bowcutt, who said the following to Aviation Week:

Opening quote
"It’s a really hard problem to develop an aircraft that takes off and accelerates through Mach 1 all the way to Mach 5 and beyond."
Closing quote


A previous test saw a plane prototype achieve Mach 5.1 for a period of a few minutes, but it only achieved this speed by being launched, like a giant rocket, out of another aircraft. Even then, the prototype quickly ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean, suggesting that this may not be the safest way to travel just yet.

Even so, Boeing seems keen to take their initial concept design and turn it into something a little more concrete, and given the company's track record for very quickly turning design briefs into prototypes, it's worth assuming that they'll manage this sooner, rather than later.




As with other ongoing Boeing endeavors, there's an element of pressure to getting aircraft up to reliably hypersonic speeds - plenty of other companies, and even NASA, are also working on improving planes so that they're able to fly faster, thanks to developments in nanotube technology and other new ways of speeding things up while aircraft are in the sky.

While the Son of Blackbird is intended as a military plane, it's worth assuming that before long, much of this new technology will also filter down into Boeing's other creations. Ideally, we'll see hypersonic planes becoming the norm for civilian passenger flights and cargo shipments, meaning that getting from one side of the world to the other could become a lot easier and quicker.

Hopefully, this will mean that we'll all be able to travel the globe (and beyond) with greater speed, and it'll be a lot less time consuming to ship items from one country to another. While this new technology will probably be incredibly expensive at first, eventually it'll make sense for airlines to offer competitive prices for customers, as faster speeds become the norm, rather than the exception, in air travel.

We're still no closer to solid teleportation, but if a four hour flight can become just an hour or two in the air, everybody wins - so long as these changes in air travel are also offset by better fuel solutions that are less harmful for the environment. The carbon footprint for airplanes is bad enough as it is.

If you've always wanted to visit a distant part of the world, but you don't want to have to sit on a plane for a full eighteen hours, it might be worth keeping an eye on what Boeing is up to.

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