Introduction- Commercial supersonic and hypersonic flights are firmly on the horizon.
Since the Concorde, there hasn’t been a supersonic passenger airliner. A test plane is now ready to take off once more. Another intends to travel at four times the speed of sound, ushering in the hypersonic epoch.
The AS2 business jet is a little plane, measuring about 21 metres in length (68.8 feet). However, being the first privately built supersonic aircraft, it represents a significant stride forward in aviation history after a difficult year for the airline sector.
Up to this time, every other supersonic aircraft — the European Concorde, which flew until 2003, and the Soviet Tu-144, which flew until 1999, as well as a slew of fast military planes — had been funded with billions from state coffers and produced with official mandates.
Boom Supersonic, a startup based in Denver, is unique. Last October, it showcased the world’s first privately built supersonic jet. Baby Boom is the nickname for the single-seat XB-1 which is expected to be a smaller-scale successor to the Concorde, which had a capacity of 100 passengers, during the second half of this decade.
For the time being, The Overture will fly passengers from London to New York at Mach 2.2 (approximately 2,700 km/h), which is quicker than the Concorde. According to the business, it will use CO2-neutral aviation fuel.
Any sonic boom should be muffled by innovative aerodynamics and reduced weight. This means it might fly in supersonic mode over land, which is now prohibited. NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States are now collaborating on solutions to allow such flight for future low-boom supersonic aircraft.
In recent years, a push to travel faster than the speed of sound has gained traction, a drive not seen in decades. However, there are still a few obstacles to overcome before Boom’s Overture can take off, such as building adequate engines.
Smaller and more agile
For the time being, it appears that smaller supersonic business planes with seating for eight to fifteen people will be the first to take off. Aerion Supersonic has been developing such a jet since 2002.
Although no Aerion aircraft have flown yet, the company recently unveiled a revised concept for the AS2 trijet. Its first flight might happen as early as 2024, with customer deliveries beginning in 2026. It would be slower than the Concorde, reaching a top speed of Mach 1.4.
Experts believe the organisation is serious about doing business. “Aerion has been constantly developing new models and is currently constructing an assembly line in Florida. Aerion is astute enough to target the military market as well “Bernd Liebhardt, a civil supersonic project engineer at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Hamburg, agreed.
“Aerion fits snugly into the tiny market window we see with these varied applications of a single aircraft platform,” he continued.
Are you in a hurry to get off the ground?
At the very least, Aerion has a contract with an engine manufacturer. General Electric is working on the Affinity turbofan, which will be the first new supersonic engine in more than five decades. These engines, unlike the Concorde’s Olympus engines, do not require noisy and fuel-guzzling afterburners for takeoff, acceleration, or cruising altitude. Aerion has made no secret of its desire to use the AS2 as a foundation for future expansion.
“Aerion has a technology roadmap that spans 50 years. The supersonic AS2 is our first step toward a quicker future “Mike Mancini, Aerion’s former CFO, stated in 2019. An airliner might be the next stage.
Aerion is bolstering its ambitions by constructing a new $300 million (€252 million) headquarters in Melbourne, Florida’s Space Coast, as well as production hangars. In 2023, construction on the first prototypes of the AS2 is expected to begin there.
In a May 2020 interview with Robb Report, Aerion CEO Tom Vice remarked, “Concorde was a brave, noble experiment and a huge milestone in the history of aeroplanes, but the AS2 is very different in both specification and business strategy.”
Begin with the simple tasks
According to Aerion’s CEO, there is a sweet spot at Mach 4.5 that allows flying from the United States to Japan in two hours or less while avoiding certain material and cooling issues.
The AS3’s design is still a mystery, however it appears to have swept delta wings, twin vertical tails, and four engines positioned beneath the wings. Later this year, Aerion has promised to reveal more details about the design. Its goal is to link any two sites on the globe in under three hours.
“The first step is supersonic flight. “We must push the frontiers of what is possible to fully change global transportation as we know it today,” Vice stated.
Bernd Liebhardt of the German Aerospace Center, on the other hand, is a lot more reserved. “Hypersonic travel, in my opinion, is some decades away.
“Supersonic travel is difficult enough, but hypersonic travel is even more difficult,” he explained. “First and foremost, we must make supersonic work.”
They are going to be really fast
Aerion made an announcement just before Easter that startled industry experts. With its AS3, another new jet, the business expects to make a quantum jump in fast air transportation by the end of this decade. Up to 50 passengers will be able to travel at Mach 4 (approximately 5,000 km/h) for up to 13,000 kilometres or even quicker.
This would indicate that an airliner has finally entered the low hypersonic area, which begins at Mach 5. The military surveillance plane Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which reached Mach 3.3 (approximately 4,000 km/h), is the fastest aircraft with air-breathing engines to date.
On a record trip with air-to-air refuelling, this plane flew from New York to London in slightly under two hours. Aerion collaborated with NASA’s Langley Research Center to investigate the future of commercial aviation in the Mach 3-5 range.