Hypersonic space planes promise 2 hour flights to other side of Earth

December 27, 2006

Two hour flights to the other side of the world may seem like a scene from a science fiction movie; but the technology is in place, and a plane that can do just that is currently in development. 

Image: Computer generated hypersonic plane ready for takeoff.

While it currently looks like a sceeenshot from a flight simulator, the Astrox space plane is the real deal, and the Astrox Corporation says it could revolutionize the transportation industry.

Traveling as fast as Mach 25 with at least 30 minutes of space shuttle-like views while in orbit is the highlight of this plane, and The Astrox Corporation, along with their partners, are claiming to have finally overcome their largest problem, mixing fuel.

How do you mix fuel in the engine of an efficient, hypersonic space plane that travels at 17,500 miles-per-hour? Mechanical engines won’t perform well at these hypersonic speeds, and moving parts start shutting down before Mach 10. By using an inward-turning scramjet engine, The Astrox Corporation, along with their partners, has successfully designed and tested a combustor for the Astrox space plane.

The scramjet engine uses no moving parts, and is shaped like a rectangular funnel. Air enters the engine at an astonishing 2,200 MPH, mixes with fuel, undergoes ignition, and is combusted within one millisecond!

“The combustion is fast, so that’s not the problem, but before combustion can occur, you have to mix your fuel with the air quickly. This is more difficult when the air’s traveling at such high speeds,” said Astrox President Ajay Kothari. “Hypersonic space planes could revolutionize the transportation industry, much like jet planes did for subsonic commercial aviation 50 years ago.”

The research team has currently tested the combustor at Mach 2 in a supersonic wind tunnel, and Kothari plans to test both his design and the combustor in a small, model space plane before marketing their vehicle design.

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