Here is an article I found on something kinda neat.
THE age of "hypersonic" flight may be about to dawn. A
prototype superfast aircraft, which could fly passengers
between London and New York in just 40 minutes, will be unveiled this week.
The Hyper-X, a flying engine that looks like a surfboard with fins, designed jointly by Boeing and Nasa, will be tested 75 miles off Los Angeles next month at speeds of up to 5,000mph, more than three times as fast as the currently grounded Concorde.
If the 12ft-long plane does not explode or suffer any other technical malfunctions, the 500-mile flight over San Nicolas Island in the Pacific Ocean will be repeated later this year with prototypes capable of reaching 7,000mph. Such a craft could circumnavigate the globe in less than four hours.
Boeing, the world's biggest aircraft builder, was so confident of the technology after wind tunnel tests last month that it announced it was abandoning its race with Airbus, the European plane manufacturer, to build bigger jets to concentrate on faster ones instead.
First Boeing will build the 700mph Sonic Cruiser, which will shave an hour off the current seven-hour transatlantic journey. That will be on sale after 2007. Then it will concentrate on hypersonic planes.
Boeing intends initially to design such aircraft for the American military, then build a bigger version for cargo operators and, when all tests have been completed, for customers such as British Airways, starting in 2016.
For engineering reasons it would be half the size of the jumbos that have ruled the skies since 1970. For structural reasons, it would probably not have windows but, as Sir Richard Branson proposed 10 years ago, it could have wall screens showing film of passing clouds.
Designers believe passengers could be protected from the face-flattening effects of G-force by using a highly pressurised cabin and gradating the plane's acceleration.
Alex McWhirter, an aviation specialist, said the sonic boom, a loud shockwave created when a plane goes through the sound barrier, would be a problem. "The plane would have to keep under the speed of sound until it was over water, which would restrict the routes it could operate on," he said.
Aviation experts say the leap in speed is long overdue. The record for the fastest civilian aircraft is 1,600mph, set by the Russian Tupolov Tu-144 in 1970. It was retired after it crashed at the Paris air show three years later.
More typical aircraft speeds of 500mph have not changed since the 1950s and some journeys take longer than in the 1920s because of congestion.
The likely cost of hypersonic travel would restrict the number of potential passengers. However, its backers believe there would be demand. "I hate long flights," said Michael Winner, the film director, who has flown Concorde often. "If I can get to my destination faster, I can't think of anything better."
The development of a hypersonic plane has been made
possible by advances in metal sciences. "We are still quite a way from strapping an undercarriage on the Hyper-X, fitting it with leather seats and calling it a jumbo, but I could see that start to happen within 15 years," said a Boeing engineer last week.
The £120m Hyper-X will be bolted beneath the wing of a B-52 bomber for its first flight. The B-52 will release the "flying surfboard" at 20,000ft and a conventional booster rocket will drive it to about 2,000mph.
Revolutionary "scramjets" then cut in and, for 10 seconds - the same as the original Wright brothers' flight in 1903 - the hypersonic plane will, the designers hope, reach a maximum speed of 5,000 mph, making it the fastest aircraft in history.
The science is basic. Ordinary jet engines work by blades dragging air into a chamber, compressing it, mixing it with petrol and exploding it out of the rear to create forward momentum. Scramjets do not have blades, but depend on previously generated speeds to force air through an oval-shaped mouth at the front into a copper chamber, where it mixes with environmentally friendly hydrogen to produce a much more powerful explosion.
The fate of the prototype will be a watery grave. Nasa said last week: "We would love to put it in the Smithsonian Museum but we don't have the money to recover it from the ocean floor."