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Superjet Technology Nears Reality After Successful Australia Test (cnet.com) 132

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo: A two-hour flight from Sydney to London is a step closer to reality after the latest successful test Wednesday of hypersonic technology in the Australian desert. A joint US-Australian military research team is running a series of 10 trials at the world's largest land testing range, Woomera in South Australia, and at Norway's Andoya Rocket Range. Hypersonic flight involves traveling at more than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5). Scientists involved in the program -- called Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) -- are developing an engine that can fly at Mach 7, Michael Smart of the University of Queensland told AFP. He added that the scramjet was a supersonic combustion engine that uses oxygen from the atmosphere for fuel, making it lighter and faster than fuel-carrying rockets. The experimental rocket in the trial on Wednesday reached an altitude of 278 kilometers and a target speed of Mach 7.5, Australia's defense department said. The first test of the rocket was conducted in 2009. The next test is scheduled for 2017 with the project expected to be completed in 2018. It's only a matter of time before such high-speed transportation technology is implemented into our infrastructure. Last week, Hyperloop One conducted a successful test of its high speed transportation technology in the desert outside Las Vegas.
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Superjet Technology Nears Reality After Successful Australia Test

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since supersonic commercial transportation has never been tried before, I predict a bright future for this technology. Perhaps Great Britain and France might embark on a joint venture and see what happens.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Since supersonic commercial transportation has never been tried before, I predict a bright future for this technology. Perhaps Great Britain and France might embark on a joint venture and see what happens.

      Especially as the military has absolutely no need for super cruise either. /s

    • Since supersonic commercial transportation has never been tried before, I predict a bright future for this technology. Perhaps Great Britain and France might embark on a joint venture and see what happens.

      And maybe, just maybe, eventually someone will think about flying one of these future super-sonic aero-planes from someplace like London to a frontier town like New York City!

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      Perhaps Great Britain and France

      This Americanism annoys me. "Great Britain" is an island, not a nation. Why not say "the UK", or just "Britain"? Do Americans imagine it is a compliment to call it Great? It must annoy the Northern Irish even more, like referring to the US as the "Contiguous United States".

      • by johanw ( 1001493 )

        Do they even have a research institute in Northern Ireland?

      • OK, Little Britain then.

      • I know, like most Americans, I spend a lot of time worrying about offending the Northern Irish.

        like referring to the US as the "Contiguous United States".

        More like saying "America", which people actually do. And somehow you don't meet a lot of angry Hawaiians, Mexicans, or Canadians.

        In all seriousness, like many things it's probably a holdover in American English from when the US became independent. At the time, it was indeed the Kingdom of Great Britain - they didn't hook up with Ireland for another few years when it became the UK. Then another name change after W

        • And somehow you don't meet a lot of angry Hawaiians

          Apparently you haven't spent a lot of time there; all you have to do to piss off a lot of the natives is to be white.

        • by quenda ( 644621 )

          More like saying "America", which people actually do.

          America is short for "United States of America", just as Britain is short for "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
          Both are widely accepted.

          it's probably a holdover in American English from when the US became independent. At the time, it was indeed the Kingdom of Great Britain -

          Ah! ! That may well be it, or at least it's a damned good excuse.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        I think most Americans (and probably a lot of other people) are very confused about what to call you folks. We have UK, Great Britain, England, and a bunch of smaller regions... Ireland, Scotland, Wales, etc. I know you folks have it all sorted out in your heads but it might be a good idea for you to put on some kind of PR campaign to educate us on what to call you. Just decide on one term and I'm sure we will all get behind it.
        Until then, stop whinging about it.

    • I was wondering if anyone would remember that this is not really new, and it was not commercially viable.
  • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @08:09PM (#52145747)
    Supersonic air transport had its ascendency in the 1970s back when businesspeople were prepared to pay thousands of dollars to prevent being incommunicado for more than a few hours. Being out of touch might cost them thousands, so they were willing to pay to prevent it. Fairly soon, people will be able to make calls from planes anywhere on the planet, stream video and be online at 35,000 feet - All from the comfort of an $8,000 first-class seat. No one will be incommunicado anymore, so the business driver to get from A to B in as little time as possible won't matter as much any more.

    The future belongs to aircraft like the future generations of the 787 and A350. Subsonic, but comfortable, quiet, and nearly able to fly between any two points on the globe without stopping.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      $8000 first-class seat? Some people do have money to waste.

      • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @08:19PM (#52145807)

        $8000 first-class seat? Some people do have money to waste.

        I stand corrected - I just checked.

        New York to London return next week, first class on British Airways: $20,000

        • by haruchai ( 17472 )

          With a little shopping around on Orbitz, I've found many Business class flights for $2500 - $4000.
          Or 1st class for ~$7k on United or American, who can navigate to the UK just as well as the airline with British in the name.

          • Or 1st class for ~$7k on United or American, who can navigate to the UK just as well as the airline with British in the name.

            Does American offer first class? I thought they only have Business Class. I know United does, but they're pulling it from most aircraft.

            (pause)

            OK, I just checked United for next week, EWR to LHR. Business Class only, no first class.

            • AA did first class from ORD to JFK back in Feb because I flew it - only to discover that they don't have a lounge at all for internal first class flights, only international (Usually the only real benefit to flying business - I'm not sure any of the airlines offer first - inside western Europe is the lounge before the flight and the shorter screening lines)

              And a 90 minute wait for my luggage at JFK baggage reclaim "because it was raining." Don't understand why that would matter but apparently that was the r

              • But they move the curtain

                They also reconfigure the seats so that in a 3 person bank the middle seat is empty, don't they?

                • Don't know - in my case it was one of the wider seats that had been "downgraded" to economy.

                  Never noticed what happens when business class is extended

          • be careful what American airline companies often call first class is everyone elses business class.
          • There is more to a nice flight than its ability to navigate. There are many first class flights out there which are worse than competitor's business classes.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Business class is coach with an extra half an inch of armrest per seat, an extra inch of legroom, and a slightly better inflight snack... walnuts instead of peanuts.

            And for these privileges you pay an extra 800 - 1000 % of a coach ticket, but you get to feel slightly more special than the slightly less special, unwashed masses stinking up the back 2/3 of the plane behind you.

            Since 1983, most airlines, (little known fact here,) most airlines have had air ducting that takes the air that it dispenses into coac

        • by mspohr ( 589790 )

          When you're spending other people's money, you don't think about cost.
          It's not like the people who buy these tickets earned the money themselves by digging ditches.

      • That's the current first-class price on British Airways...
      • Agreed. I like my business class seat from LAX to HKG for $5700. As comfortable as first class (a bit smaller pod, but the seating/sleeping area is the same size) but saves nearly $10,000 as compared to a first class seat.
    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday May 19, 2016 @08:53PM (#52145987) Homepage Journal

      Non-stop JFK to New Delhi is fourteen hours. People will pay more to do that in four hours, whether or not they can watch YouTube on the 14-hours flight.

    • comfortable

      When was the last time you rode on a commercial airline...?

    • No one like being in a plane for a long time, even if they have movies to watch or can check their email.

      Probably of more relevance is cost efficiency. Not much else matters to Airlines. Airlines get paid for taking someone from point A to point B. It's difficult to imagine it not being expensive, but if a single aircraft can make 5 trips round the world a day compared to 1 then it might be cost effective.
    • Supersonic air transport had its ascendancy in the 1970s because oil was cheap and plentiful, and the high bypass turbo fan had not been developed. Propulsive efficiency of a turbojet reaches its peak into the supersonic range, so Concorde wasn't as much of a gas-guzzler compared to something like a 707 as it would be now against modern jets. Factor in better aircraft/crew utilization and the thing could have been quite economical, particularly for business class travel.

      Of course the sonic boom problem kill

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Huh, what? The high-bypass turbofan dates to the mid '60s.

    • Fairly soon, people will be able to make calls from planes anywhere on the planet, stream video and be online at 35,000 feet - All from the comfort of an $8,000 first-class seat.

      Pretty sure I had this facility in my last economy class flight. Okay I was unable to stream video but I had no issue reading Facebook, posting on Slashdot or making overpriced phonecalls.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      you mean 640mph autta be enuf?

      I think what really doomed SST is these types of aircraft don't scale up like subsonic transports. There are much higher skin temperatures, requires a lot more power and guzzles lots more fuel (I heard expression that Concorde and SR71 were flying gas tanks), difficult to upgrade to longer duration (later 737s go much further than when it first flew), and doesn't really get you there any quicker (need to get to airport hours before flight anyway).

    • by Malc ( 1751 )

      Have you tried flying London to Melbourne? You're lucky if you can do it in as little as 24 hours, and you will effectively lose two nights sleep unless you're the kind of person who sleeps anywhere. A non-stop flight would be an improvement, but I suppose it will still take a long time. My wife is from Australia and it normally takes us 33+ hours door-to-door when we visit her family, so yes, I would love a faster option.

    • You don't know what technology is, do you?

    • Fairly soon, people will be able to make calls from planes anywhere on the planet, stream video and be online at 35,000 feet - All from the comfort of an $8,000 first-class seat.

      And if making calls is enough to get the job done, why are you not simply staying home?

      If you want to move from point A to point B, there's presumably some reason you want to get to point B. What ever it is, travel time is holding you from it. Also, just because they're overvalued doesn't mean every businessperson treats their job

  • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @08:23PM (#52145827)

    Successful test of the engine in a small experimental device is hardly justify thinking we will soon do this in our lifetime. Practical and safety issues about, not the least of which is the fact that it will have to be the most complicated computer controlled object ever to fly.

    No pilot will be able to control a hypersonic plane when something goes WRONG. Computers will have to take over from other computers to control a malfunctioning hypersonic aircraft.

    • "about" should have been 'abound'

      Sorry

    • Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't get the pessimism.

      The first jet engine was designed in the early 1930s. The first airplane to use a jet engine was in the late 30s and the first jet airliner came about in the early 1950s. So figure a bit over 10 years. Now, there was a war going on and lots of research into jets was going on. So we'll double it and say 25 years.

      Now, I'll grant you that's borderline for my lifetime, based on average age of death, but it's not entirely unfeasible to believe that I

      • Might have something to do with the energy cost of pushing an object through air that at speed has the fluid dynamic characteristics of molasses; might have to do with the challenge of maintaining structural integrity of an object being pushed through molasses; might be that pushing the object through molasses is actually the easier engineering problem; might have something to do with the lack of a need to push an object through molasses; ...
    • I wonder if it's more complicated than the F-117 stealth attack aircraft [wikipedia.org] that is inherently unstable at any speed in all three axes. Meaning without constant computer controlled input correction every 10 milliseconds or so, it would literally fall from the sky.
    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      The engine isn't the only thing that needs development. The fastest military aircraft in the US inventory was the SR-71. It flew so fast that it was difficult to service due to the heat build up in flight. It would contract and expand a large amount due to heating as well. The air frame and control services are a challenge. To maintain a safe mach 7 aircraft is not a trivial matter. Particularly in a commercial aircraft where the risks that military pilots are willing to take are totally unacceptable.

      • What "lost" a number of SR-71s was the "coffin corner."

        The faster planes go, the narrower the control of allowable angle of attack is to maintain attitude control. At take off speeds you have many degrees of angle of attack to use without loss of control.

        At 2500 mph, the angle of attack allowable variance gets very small and the plane can only be safely flown in level flight in a straight line in non-turbulent weather.

    • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

      Queensland University have been working on this engine for quite a while.

      I had a short relationship with a girl in 1988 - one of her close friends was on the team, AND SHE NEVER SHUT UP ABOUT HIM - hence "short" above.

    • But no such problem for a cruise missile... And given that the tests are being conducted by the military I am not sure what all the talk about civilian use comes from.
  • ah scramjets (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @08:26PM (#52145849)

    remember when NASA actually had a budget [wikimedia.org] to make cool things too? [wikipedia.org]

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      This was a NASA project for a while despite being based in Australia. An ex-NASA person was running it with NASA putting up some of them funding is sort of a NASA project, at least in terms of them getting their name on published papers.
  • https://youtu.be/jQM6b9RonXM [youtu.be] Planes That Never Flew - The American SST - Boeing 2707

    I was just watching this earlier today. The two problems have been: sonic booms over populated areas, and necessity of Titanium to handle the heat at the leading edges. At least when this documentary was made, the metal choice still had no better solution than back in the 70's, and it was too expensive then. The development of an American SST that could do Mach 3 was mandated by Kennedy, and they could not deliver.

    • Looking at the original article, this isn't an SST. It is a test of an alternative engine, involving high speeds and altitude (278 KM altitude) and it is nowhere near being a system for transporting people. It is a rocket based on a scramjet.
      • Hey, it's only a matter of time!

        In other news, space elevators are only a matter of time!

        And faster than light communication, too, is only a matter of time!

    • It all depends how far away the plane is. I remember hearing the sonic boom of the space shuttle entering the atmosphere ca. 1998. It sounded like soft, distant thunder.

      This plane plans to fly pretty high. If it waits to break until it's very high up, it won't be a problem for anyone.

      Fighter jets are ludicrously loud, even subsonic. There's a small airport a couple miles from my office. When some f16s took off, it sounded like a jumbo jet was aiming to crash into our building.

    • I don't know if many have experienced the shock wave of breaking the sound barrier. I was in a mobile home in northern Arizona when some fighter jets broke mach. The trailer rocked and I thought it might be an earthquake. It isn't merely like a thunderstorm as some say.

      I remember, a few years ago, when President Obama was flying into Washington state - I think he was coming into Everett, but it may have been Boeing Field in Seattle. Anyway, what eventually turned out to be some private pilot in a little puddle-jumper managed to stumble into the no-fly zone... the Air Force scrambled a couple fighter jets out of Oregon (IIRC) which rapidly came up along Puget Sound at very high speed and at very low altitude.

      So, yeah - at least up here, a lot of people have experienced tha

  • That thing looked pretty interesting but there hasn't been any news about it for over a year. Is it still in development?

    • It's had a big cash injection from the UK government, another from ESA and BAE have purchased a 20% stake in the company, so its very much still on. The BAE buy in may have required some caution on the media front, or as a military contractor, may have been contractually required.
  • The blub says it "Uses atmospheric oxygen for fuel." Which is exactly wrong. It uses atmospheric oxygen AS AN OXIDIZER. Not as a fuel. The fuel is what the oxygen burns. And it still carries fuel onboard. FFS.
  • Soooo (Score:5, Funny)

    by geek ( 5680 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @09:14PM (#52146075)

    The flight from AUS to the UK would be shorter than the line at the TSA?

  • "The practical application of that is you could fly long distances over the Earth very, very quickly but also that it's very useful as an alternative to a rocket for putting satellites into space," Smart said.

    You'd still need a rocket engine to get it up to speed to where a scramjet can start working, unless it was a hybrid design similar to how the SR71 worked, where at full speed most intake air bypassed the J-58 compressor and it operated closer to a ramjet.

    Then the rocket would be needed again when reac

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Yes. It's not for a single stage to orbit system, but since there has never been one of those it's a little odd to be critical of it for not being capable of that.
  • Oxygen from the air for combustion? Huygens did it back in 1680 in his first internal combustion engine. Oxygen from the air is a pretty well known way to power an internal combustion engine at this time.
    • One of the problems of using oxygen from the air at high speed is preventing the air blowing out the flame.

      AFAIAA all non experimental aircraft slow down the air to subsonic speeds in the engine which limits their theoretical maximum speed to the point where the thrust is just enough to overcome the drag of slowing down the air in the engine.

      Rockets supply both oxidizer and fuel so don't have this problem.

      Eventually I guess scramjets will become commonplace but getting them working reliably and efficiently

  • "... reached an altitude of 278 kilometers"

    That is pretty high, for an oxygen breathing machine. It could have touched hands with IIS almost at that height. I wonder how much oxygen is available there.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Enough that the IIS needs to boost its orbit periodically to correct losses from atmospheric drag, but not enough to combust anything.

      The height was to give them a parabola that brought the engine to the right combination of speed, altitude and attitude to run the test on the way down.

  • Without a powerful precooler this engine will have quite a substantial weight, decreasing its efficiency. The SABRE engine from Reaction Engines Ltd. seems to be more of a step in the right direction, instead of brute-forcing the minimum performance required, efficiency be damned.

  • "The first test of the rocket was conducted in 2009. The next test is scheduled for 2017 with the project expected to be completed in 2018. It's only a matter of time before such high-speed transportation technology is implemented into our infrastructure. Last week, Hyperloop One conducted a successful test of its high speed transportation technology in the desert outside Las Vegas." Not sure I really understand the comment. We already had supersonic flights that simply were not economically sustainable. T

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