Monday, September 14, 2015

SpaceLiner could fly passengers from Europe-Australia in 90 minutes

SpaceLiner concept.
(German Aerospace Center)

A hypersonic plane that could carry 100 passengers between Europe and Australia in 90 minutes could be a reality by 2050, according to the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Dubbed the SpaceLiner, DLR wants to move ahead with developing the spacecraft, which is a rocket-propelled intercontinental passenger transport capable of carrying 50 passengers and two crew members.

It would have an 83.5 meter long/wing span of 37.5 meters, a rocket-propelled jet, and would work by launching into the Earth’s stratosphere to altitudes of 80 km where it could travel at speeds up to 13,300 km/h. The two-stage, vertical-takeoff configuration concept consists of a large unmanned booster and a manned stage designed for 50 passengers and two crew members, DLR said on its website.

Since the termination of Concorde operation at Air France and British Airways in 2003, intercontinental travel has been restricted to low-speed, subsonic, elongated multi-hour flight.

According to DLR, the key challenge of space transportation is to reduce launch cost as low as possible. “Production is one of the main cost drivers due to the very low manufacturing numbers of stages and engines. Without a new market application for space technology no improvement is to be expected,” DLR said on its website.

DLR said it has developed a vision that “ultimately has the potential to enable sustainable, low-cost space transportation to orbit. The number of launches per year should be strongly raised and hence manufacturing and operating cost of launcher hardware should dramatically shrink. The obvious challenge of the vision is to identify the very application creating this new, large-size market.”

DLR said the new kind of high-speed transport, based on a two-stage Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV), could operate on distances like Europe-Australia in 90 minutes. Flying time between Europe and North-West America could be reduced to slightly more than one hour. The aircraft will be accelerated by 11 liquid rocket engines operated using cryogenic liquid oxygen and hydrogen—meaning it will only release water vapor and hydrogen in the atmosphere.

It is expected this project is unlikely to get off the ground until 2050.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

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