AUG 06, 2015 05:14 PM PDT

Airbus Awarded Patent For Hypersonic Airliner

So there's the average jetliner that cruises at about 550 miles per hour, which is subsonic. There was, until 2003, the Concorde that used to cruise at about 1,334 mph, which was supersonic, but what about an airliner that is hypersonic? Well, that's what European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has just been awarded a patent for: an airliner that will cruise at about four and a half times the speed of sound. Pie in the sky, you might be thinking? How are they going to fly that fast? What about the sonic boom, the literal death knell of the supersonic airplane industry? Turns out, Airbus really kind of has thought of all of these problems, and it looks like they've solved them.

A diagram from Airbus' patent application showing the configuration of the Ultra-rapid Air Vehicle

First of all, how do they plan to travel at mach 4.5? This is so cool: what Airbus is currently calling the "Ultra-rapid air vehicle" will have three kinds of engines. For takeoffs and landings it will have regular turbojet engines. These will get the plane off the ground and up to a certain altitude. Once there, the jet engines will be retracted into the fuselage, and the craft will ignite a pair of rocket engines! Sonic boom? not a problem. During its rocket burn, the Ultra-rapid air vehicle will be going almost vertical, so sonic booms will never hit the ground, meaning no one will ever hear them.



Once it has reached its maximum altitude, the craft will use its third engine type: ramjets, tucked under the craft's delta wings. These will allow it to cruise at Mach 4.5. At this speed, it will be able to carry 2 or 3 tons of cargo, or 20 passengers from London to New York in about an hour, a trip that takes about seven hours in a conventional jetliner today.

So, what amazing new technology will allow for this sort of unheard of performance? Well, almost all of the technology in this design is current: turbo jets, rockets, ramjets, a delta wing, these are all things we know how to build. The cleverness of this design lies mainly in the combining of all these technologies into one craft. There is one truly new idea which is crucial to the design, and will allow the plane to control itself during both subsonic and hypersonic flight: it's a pair of fins situated on the outer ends of the delta wings. At subsonic speeds, less than MACH 1, the fins will be oriented horizontally. Once the plane's speed exceeds MACH 1, however the fins will be oriented vertically. This will cause the center of pressure to be maintained at the same point, providing greater stability.

(Source: phys.org)
About the Author
  • Andrew J. Dunlop lives and writes in a little town near Boston. He's interested in space, the Earth, and the way that humans and other species live on it.
You May Also Like
SEP 02, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 02, 2018
International Space Station Crew Repairs Small Air Leak
The International Space Station is an Earth-orbiting laboratory that operates in the vacuum of outer space. That said, it needs to maintain a constant air...
SEP 04, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 04, 2018
Why It's So Hard to Predict the Shape of the Universe
Astronomers still have many questions about the universe. One of those being: what is the universe’s shape? It may seem like a simple question at fir...
SEP 19, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 19, 2018
RemoveDebris Spacecraft Successfully Nets a Piece of Space Junk
Experts approximate that there’s around 7.5 metric tons’ worth of space junk swirling around our planet. Most of this junk is comprised of dead...
SEP 25, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 25, 2018
Titan Experiences Dust Storms Just Like Earth and Mars
Dust storms aren’t particularly pleasant, but you should consider yourself lucky if you ever get to experience one. Planetary scientists have long be...
OCT 02, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 02, 2018
NASA's Kepler Space Telescope Enters Sleep Mode to Preserve Data
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope earned a reputation for being quite the capable exoplanet hunter, but after all these years of memorable service to the...
OCT 31, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 31, 2018
Do You Have What it Takes to be an Astronaut?
Have you ever wanted to become an astronaut? If yes, then you’re not alone. Being able to experience zero gravity is a mutual interest among individu...
Loading Comments...