The US is currently conducting test flights of a new X-51A WaveRider jet that is capable of hitting a top speed of Mach 6 (4,300mph / 6,900km/h) – which would allow it to travel from London to New York in just an hour! Unfortunately, a flight test of the hypersonic vehicle went awry today as a faulty control fin caused the craft to be lost over the Pacific.

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From 1990 to 2006 aviation emissions have increased by 87%, making the airline industry one of the planet’s largest emitters. Hypersonic aircraft are able to reach their destinations faster than conventional aircraft while reducing fuel use. The WaveRider has already reached Mach 5 in June 2011, but Mach 6 is the new target speed.

The test flight saw the WaveRider carried over the Pacific Ocean by a B-52 bomber, dropped the wingless unmanned jet from 50,000 ft (15,250m). According to X-51A program manager Charlie Brink “It is unfortunate that a problem with this subsystem caused a termination before we could light the Scramjet engine”.

The potential of a Mach 6 aircraft are huge. At six times the speed of sound, it would be three times faster than the Concorde which had a cruising speed of Mach 2. European aerospace and defense giant EADShave already stated that hypersonic passenger flights are very likely to appear in the near future, with the company presenting its own concept of a commercial high-speed aircraft designed to fly at Mach 4.

“The business community who wanted to be in New York in three hours made Concorde highly viable, and now there’s interest on both sides of the Atlantic to jump a generation and go from supersonic flight to hypersonic flight,” EADS’ vice-president of business development, Peter Robbie said speaking to BBC News. “Such an aircraft will be very expensive, of course, because of the enormous amounts of energy that is required to get to such speeds, but the idea of going from Tokyo to Paris in two-and-a-half hours is very attractive for the business and political community – and I think that by about 2050, there may be a viable commercial aircraft.”

Perhaps they should learn from the US military and look at the biofuel option?

+ Boeing X-51 WaveRider

Via BBC News