UK firm designs hypersonic plane

Posted on 5 Feb 2008 by The Manufacturer

Oxfordshire-based R&D firm Reaction Engines has unveiled designs for a hypersonic passenger aeroplane, which could fly from northern Europe to Australia in under five hours.

With the help of European Space Agency funding, the team of engineers and scientists at Reaction Engines have developed plans for an aircraft that could travel at more than 3,000 mph, transporting 300 passengers.

The plane would be of particular significance to the aerospace industry’s current strive to lower its carbon footprint, as it would be powered by liquid hydrogen, which would emit only water vapour and nitrous oxide.

Though markedly larger than conventional jets, the 132 metre long A2 would also be lighter, allowing it to use current airport runways.

Some critics believe that the liquid hydrogen fuel is potentially more harmful than is being publicised, and that flying at ozone-layer-level could cause atmospheric damage. Reaction Engines will, however, be conducting further research into the environmental impact of the jet as the next stage of its development.

According to Reaction senior engineer and managing director Alan Bond, the A2 could be roaming the skies within 25 years. “It sounds incredible by today’s standards but I don’t see why future generations can’t make day trips to Australasia,” he said. “Our work shows that it is possible technically; now it’s up to the world to decide if it wants it.”