Europe Space Agency Hypersonic Plane Work: FAST 20XX and Lapcat II

European Space Agency (ESA) activities in the non-space themes of EC’s programmes are the Long Term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies (LAPCAT) II and Future High-Altitude High-Speed Transport (FAST) 20XX. LAPCAT II is a logical follow-up of the previous LAPCAT I, whose objective was to reduce the duration of antipodal flights (that is, flights between two diametrically opposite points on the globe) to less than four, or even less than two hours.

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Funding of a hypersonic spaceliner is at a few million euro per year and they do not expect it to be completed until 2075. A date that far in the future means toying with the idea until it becomes obvious it can work or to catch up with another country. In the meantime making some pictures and analyzing some technical problems. A suborbital competitor to Virgin Galactic is likely for 2015.

German aerospace center DLR has been studying the rocket spaceliner concept.