Only two hours from Shanghai to New York? China joins race to develop hypersonic airliner –


(CNN) Is it possible to travel from Shanghai, China to New York, USA within two or three hours?

Beijing-based Space Transport Corporation (Lingkutenko) has developed a hypersonic airliner capable of traveling at a speed of 1 mile per second, more than twice as fast as the supersonic airliner Concorde, aiming to do just that. Target.

According to a promotional video released by the company, the hypersonic airliner with 12 passengers (no helmets or spacesuits required) will take off in a triangular configuration with two boosters, launch vertically and separate when it reaches cruising altitude . It flies at 7,000 kilometers per hour and lands vertically at its destination.

The company plans to conduct its first test flight for suborbital space travel in 2025, with the goal of launching a full-scale hypersonic airliner by 2030.

If the initiative comes to fruition, it would reflect China’s ambitious efforts. China is carving out a potentially lucrative niche market for space travel and hypersonic direct point-to-point flights for business travelers. Therefore, the development of hypersonic airliners has the support of important players in the Chinese investment community.

Last August, Shanghai Industrial Investment Fund, led by private equity firm Matrix Partners China, together with state-owned Shanghai Guosheng Group, raised more than 300 million yuan in initial funding for space transportation.

rocket science

China’s relationship with rocket technology dates back to 1232, when China’s Jin Dynasty fought the Mongol Empire. Chinese archers fought off Mongol invaders by firing rapid-fire “fireballs,” rocket-like weapons that ignited bamboo tubes filled with gunpowder.

At present, in the context of air combat, China’s main opponents are the United States and Russia, and the battlefields are in the stratosphere and near-Earth orbit. A recent analysis by Canadian research firm Emergen Research found that revenues in the global suborbital transportation and space travel market will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 16.8%, reaching a market value of $423.7 million by 2020. It is expected to grow to USD 1.44 billion by 2028.

exciting space travel

For now, suborbital flight as a way to get from point A to point B remains the future.

But with space balloons, weightless parabolic flights and more options for fun, space enthusiasts may soon be able to spacewalk. No.

SpaceX’s Polaris Dawn mission is scheduled to launch later this year from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew will stay in orbit for up to five days, performing the first commercial spacewalk. The mission is a stepping stone to future manned missions to the moon and Mars.

But the cost of space travel is astronomical. In December last year, Justin Sun, Permanent Representative of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Grenada and founder of the cryptocurrency Tron, announced that the American aerospace company Blue Origin would create a reusable new Shepherd spaceship seat and win a $28 million rocket.

The winning bidder donates to the Blue Origin Foundation Future Club. The foundation supports space philanthropy and inspires the next generation of young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Sun and a crew of five plan to fly into space aboard New Shepherd later this year.

Japanese fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa, his producer Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin paid around $80 million for round-trip international flights last December after spending 12 days on the Space Station (ISS), Safe return to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

US space company Virgin Galactic is selling 90-minute spaceflights for $450,000 per seat, starting this October-December.

“Demand for space travel is strong and seats are selling faster than we anticipated,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Kolglazier said in a statement. About 700 seats have been sold so far, according to the company.

But space travel is so expensive that the ultra-wealthy are seen to dominate the market, at least for now.

Virgin Galactic completes first successful test flight in 2020

“Space travel is still new to billionaires,” John H. Schmidt, a global aerospace and defense executive at consulting giant Accenture, told CNN. “Prices have dropped dramatically. And reaching a broader audience beyond the wealthy will take a long time.”

China prepares to develop hypersonic airliner

Entering China, it excels at identifying new market opportunities, scaling up and lowering consumer prices.

China already plays a major role in space, with a state-led roadmap supporting a range of initiatives, including satellite technology, moon and Mars landings, interstellar travel and deep space exploration.

According to a white paper released by the State Council Information Office, China has drawn up plans to promote its space economy goals, including high-speed manned transportation.

For example, in March 2018, China announced that it was developing a 265-meter-long wind tunnel. Developed by the State Key Laboratory of Thermal Aerodynamics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the wind tunnel is said to be capable of testing models of hypersonic aircraft with a top speed of Mach 25 (about 30,625 kilometers per hour).

“We may see signs of hypersonic flight, but we are still at a very early stage,” Schmidt said. “A big challenge is that the field requires scarce skills. We are investing in research and pilot projects to explore the possibilities and develop technology to create hypersonic aircraft.”

The Feasibility of Commercial Travel in Hypersonic Aircraft

Last year, NASA released the results of two major market studies on commercial hypersonic flight.

The first, a study by Deloitte with support from NASA, quantified the feasibility of supersonic commercial flight, including cruise Mach numbers (2.0-5.5), number of passengers (20, 50, 100) and distances traveled (approx. 4600-16600 km).

The study finds that the sustainable demand for rapid transport is substantial and that “the demand could come from both scheduled air passenger transport (airline services) and private jet operations (including charter services, jetcard or membership models). Very likely,” he concludes .

The analysis reveals that transoceanic global “dollar boxes” are the main entry points for the scheduled air transport services market, namely New York-London, Miami-São Paulo, New York-Paris, Los Angeles-Sydney and Sydney-Singapore. The most promising combination of cities for supersonic flight.

The report identified 90 transoceanic routes as a viable market with annual passenger traffic of 2.25 million and revenue potential of $16.5 billion. From an airline perspective, “high-speed aircraft priced at $146 million or less are attractive to both airlines and individuals.”

The second was a study conducted by NASA in conjunction with Bryce Tech and SAIC to create future demand and business models at Mach 2 to Mach 7 and forecast demand for premium air travel through 1960. We assessed willingness to pay for shorter flight times based on passenger income and wealth levels. It was found that high-speed commercial and general flights are available in more than 300 city combinations.

time is life

Adam Dissell, president of British aerospace manufacturer Reaction Engines, said: “The question is how many people are willing to pay full fare for first class for a day. Are passengers willing to pay twice as much to travel by air? The Proportion matters.”

The company has developed a new type of hydrogen-fueled engine, the combined precooled air-breathing rocket engine (SABRE), for high-speed aircraft and spacecraft, which plays an important role in the global hypersonic ecosystem.

SABER is a unique engine that combines the fuel efficiency of a jet engine with the power and speed of a rocket engine. It is designed for hypersonic aircraft, which can take off from the runway and accelerate to five times the speed of sound.

A concept image of an aircraft equipped with a “composite pre-cooled air-breathing rocket engine (SABRE)”

“SABER is well suited for high-speed P2P systems as well as suborbital or orbital systems,” Dissel told CNN. This is a big business that needs to be invented.

He also explained the main advantages between supersonic and hypersonic airliners:

The supersonic airliner Concorde can fly at Mach 2. But it needed an accelerated climb to reach Mach 2, and it didn’t stay at Mach 2 for the entire flight.

From New York to London, it takes 10 hours to go from one airport to another, but if it is a supersonic airliner, it only takes 7 hours. However, even if it is shortened, it does not mean that the days of business travel are back.

On the other hand, if you take a hypersonic airliner that can fly at speeds exceeding Mach 4, you can leave the east coast of the United States in the morning, attend a meeting in London in the afternoon, and return to the United States the same day . .

environmental considerations

While the time-saving benefits of hypersonic flight are undisputed, there are many technical and regulatory hurdles.

NASA’s market research found that restrictions on sonic booms when flying over populated areas, safety certifications, concerns about emissions and concerns about operating at high altitudes where radiation exposure is a risk should be overcome. The checklist lays out the main points.

Another challenge is that the airframe must be made of special materials to handle the speed and thermal friction that occur at high Mach numbers. Special pilot training is also required to fly the Gateway to space.

Most of these challenges are technical and can be overcome with a price. But while Concorde was being built, almost limitless public funding from British and French taxpayers supported its design and development, the next generation of hypersonic airliners will be largely funded by private companies.

Another big difference is that, unlike in the 1960s, today the focus is on the environmental impact of air travel. Spaceflight won’t look good if hypersonic passengers brag on social media about a two-hour flight from Beijing to Dubai because it will pollute the planet in the process.

According to Dissel, hypersonic airliner companies are “trying differently to deliver the fastest possible system and at least eventually a system with a lower environmental footprint”.

One of the most important factors in determining the adoption and eventual success of hypersonic flight is “finding a way to go carbon-free,” he said.

Journey from thousands of miles

Against this backdrop, China is trying to gain a foothold in the private space economy. A privately funded venture capital firm, Space Transportation is grappling with the technical challenges of bringing a spacecraft to market, but it appears to have state support.

This state support may be a differentiating factor from the competition.

The world’s spacecraft makers need a lot of cash to overcome many hurdles and make hypersonic flight a reality for the broader business travel market, not just the super-wealthy travellers.


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