Concorde on steroids
February 5, 2008 3:47 AM   Subscribe

Whooosh! London to Sydney in 5 hours on the A2 Hypersonic from Reaction Engines. Green too. If they can pull it off.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy crap, I'm impressed. I hope it works out. I also look forward to seeing how other commenters tear the idea apart.
posted by blacklite at 3:58 AM on February 5, 2008


The H2 really does look like a 1950's idea of a 1980's super rocket plane.

geewillikers mister, London to Sydney in 5 hours, that's swell

Sure is Jimmy, sure is.
posted by mattoxic at 4:00 AM on February 5, 2008


Sounds like they can pull it off as long as someone is willing to pay for them to do so... in many respects, it's like a weekend in Amsterdam.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 4:05 AM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's also an article on PopSci about it. So supercool, but honestly, I wouldn't want to be on the maiden voyage.
posted by DenOfSizer at 4:13 AM on February 5, 2008


Sounds like they can pull it off as long as someone is willing to pay for them to do so...

The web site says that the EU is already footing half the bill.

But considering that the company name is "Reaction Engines" and they're also pitching a space-shuttle type vehicle for a group of commercial spaceports that might be around by 2025, I have to suspect that the plans for the actual vehicles are really just for getting funding to develop the engine technology and to get their name out.

Another thing is that, as it says in the last link, even if they get these vehicles going, their use being green is dependent on someone else finding a way of producing liquid hydrogen in a green manner.
posted by XMLicious at 4:18 AM on February 5, 2008


Now that's what a jet is supposed to look like. Please tell me it has a huge Batmobile-style flame shooting out the back.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:23 AM on February 5, 2008


How many times has Papular "Science" posted a spread on the future of SST only to have none of it come true. How many untrained civillian passengers are going to be able to withstand the G-forces that astronauts take and remain alive and unsoiled?
posted by Pollomacho at 4:27 AM on February 5, 2008


Just like HOTOL - never happen
posted by A189Nut at 4:27 AM on February 5, 2008


In fact it is the same guy as HOTOL and seems to be the daughter of SKYLON - the names are the best thing
posted by A189Nut at 4:29 AM on February 5, 2008


I saw this thing on Thunderbirds in the '70s.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:35 AM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Richard Branson is on about doing something like this using Spaceship Two (via Digg) only with a journey time of 45 minutes.

I must say this one looks cooler, very retro Thunderbirds styling. I loved the HOTOL idea when it was first around, nice that it didn't get totally dumped.
posted by Z303 at 5:00 AM on February 5, 2008


Technologically, this isn't very far fetched. The engines need to be developed, but the rest is a fairly easy build.

Economically, there are problems. Is there enough Kangaroo route (and similar) to build it? We'd need LH2 infrastructure at airports, not cheap.

Would it be useful on shorter routes, or will it spend most of its time in climb and landing. If this plane could do, say, ORD-LHR in 2 hours as well as ORD-SYD in 5, it becomes a much more useful plane.

Can it carry real cargo? The pax number is fine -- 300, about the same as the 777/A340, but both of those planes carry significant cargo as well.

The real kicker is range -- it has to be able to make LHR/SYD and similar routes. What really killed the Concorde was range -- it was weight limited on JFK/CDG. Bad enough that it was passenger limited and carried little cargo, it couldn't carry full load from the US to mainland Europe, and could only barely do so to London.
posted by eriko at 5:09 AM on February 5, 2008


seems to be the daughter of SKYLON

Skylon is the space-plane project from the same company. This A2 thing (which is called "Lapcat" on their website, I can see why the press says "A2" instead) is hypersonic but doesn't leave the atmosphere.
posted by XMLicious at 5:20 AM on February 5, 2008


"The key to the design is the fuel it would use. Conventional fuels would not be able to get the A2 up to the necessary speed, and so Reaction Engines has designed an engine that would run on liquid hydrogen. "

Oh, the humanity.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:51 AM on February 5, 2008


All I can say is "Good luck with that."
posted by moonbiter at 6:00 AM on February 5, 2008


XMLicious - the environmental issue is that burning jet fuel high in the stratosphere does an incredible amount of damage to the ozone layer, due to nitrous oxide emissions. Production of hydrogen on the ground would do vastly less environmental damage. Unless you power it by burning lead paint, I suppose. Hydrogen power is an interesting tech for all high altitude aircraft for this reason. Even ordinary subsonic airliners, if we build enough of them, will destroy the ozone layer.

The real reason this won't fly is economics. Even the Concorde, as Eriko describes, was never economically viable. It was really a prideful advertisement for British Airways and Air France, and is the reason no sane airframe designer has before or since carried a super- or hypersonic transport to full development. The aircraft is limited in size and range, and basically it's just highly inefficient to fly faster than ~0.85 Mach. The only chance of success would be a real alternative fuel breakthrough which could power the aircraft at a fraction of the cost of JetA. Then I could have my freaking flying car, too.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 6:09 AM on February 5, 2008


Technologically, this isn't very far fetched. The engines need to be developed, but the rest is a fairly easy build.

I thought they had the engines working for HOTOL, or at least thats what I remember hearing when it was cancelled.

Having a quick look around they do seem be still working on those ideas.
posted by Z303 at 6:15 AM on February 5, 2008


"The key to the design is the fuel it would use. Conventional fuels would not be able to get the A2 up to the necessary speed, and so Reaction Engines has designed an engine that would run on liquid hydrogen. "

Is that somehow worse then Jet Fuel? I don't know if you've noticed, but Jets tend to pretty much just blow up pretty easily in crashes.
posted by delmoi at 6:21 AM on February 5, 2008


the environmental issue is that burning jet fuel high in the stratosphere does an incredible amount of damage to the ozone layer

I thought that simply having the turbulence of aircraft and spacecraft passing through the upper atmosphere does alot to degrade the ozone layer too because ozone breaks down quickly in mixture with the lower atmosphere. But granted that information is a decade or so out of date.
posted by XMLicious at 6:22 AM on February 5, 2008


I thought that simply having the turbulence of aircraft and spacecraft passing through the upper atmosphere does alot to degrade the ozone layer too...

I'm not sure of the relative importance of that effect, I'll have to look into it. I do know that NASA and engine manufacturers are spending a lot of money trying to reduce NOx emissions on new turbofan designs. Here's some somewhat useful NASA PR on it.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 7:34 AM on February 5, 2008


all this rocket talk made me think of this
posted by jtron at 7:38 AM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's a neat looking plane. And a little HOTOLish.

"The A2 is designed to leave Brussels international airport, fly quietly and subsonically out into the north Atlantic at mach 0.9 before reaching mach 5 across the North Pole and heading over the Pacific to Australia."

That's kind of neat too, avoids the problems that Concorde had with flying anywhere but back and forth to New York.

I kind of doubt it will happen, as it all seems to be at a very speculative stage and projects like this die out so easily, but I kind of hope it does.
posted by Artw at 8:05 AM on February 5, 2008


I was under the impression that NOx emissions from conventional turbine engines were the result of atmospheric nitrogen, not the fuel, so I wouldn't expect any reduction in NOx emissions just from a switch to LH2 fuel.
posted by MadDog Bob at 8:17 AM on February 5, 2008


The best part is the '86 Dodge Caravan hanging out in the shadows of that super-jet.
posted by sourwookie at 8:34 AM on February 5, 2008


I saw this a while back.

In planform, this thing reminds me of that British Single Stage to Orbit (SStO) thing from a while back, that I can't remember the name of.

HTL or some thing like that.

On review, it's HOTOL, and it's done by the same guys, Reaction Engines.
posted by Relay at 8:34 AM on February 5, 2008


Full circle!
posted by A189Nut at 11:49 AM on February 5, 2008


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