Researchers at the German Aerospace Center are developing a hypersonic “SpaceLiner” that would zip half way around the world in 90 minutes flat. The 50-passenger airplane would piggyback off of a rocket to reach speeds of about 24 times the speed of sound. The super-fast SpaceLiner is hoped to propel passengers into the future by 2050, and it would be partially powered on liquid oxygen and hydrogen, leaving only a trail of water vapor and hydrogen in the atmosphere.
With a rocket as its carrier, the commercial SpaceLiner would be launched into the Earth’s upper atmosphere, in order to reach optimal speeds without disturbing regular air traffic. Passengers would zoom through space at speeds as fast as 24 times the speed of sound, then slow down to regular airplane speeds before landing.
The whole trip would be in two stages, beginning with a rocket booster launch, which would last around eight minutes. After a height of 50 miles is reached, the slower, orbiter stage would carry passengers out to their destination, at around 15,000 mph. The SpaceLiner would function more like a second-generation space shuttle than a traditional plane, and travel on it would likely come at space shuttle pricing.
The design and shape of the passenger carrier is still being tested and designed, but once researchers find a shape that can withstand the heat created by hypersonic speeds, the project will begin looking for investors.