There are five main companies developing supersonic commercial passenger planes. Lockheed Martin is building a low sonic boom demonstrator for a NASA project. Aerion has a conservative supersonic design with 12 passengers and a cruising speed of mach 1.4. They have a partnership with Airbus. Aerion is targeting transatlantic operation in 2023. Flexjet has ordered 20 Aerion AS2 planes. Boom is developing a 50-seat trijet that will cruise at Mach 2.2 for the same ticket price as subsonic business class. Boom has VC funding and Richard Branson has optioned 10 aircraft and another company has optioned 15. Boom is targeting 2023 service as well. Aerion and Boom would be the leaders with the best funding and some sales contracts or options. If Boom is successful their design has a longer range and could cross the Pacific. Spike Aerospace is self funded and has a conservative design.
Hypermach is targeting several innovations with superconducting engines and plasma fields for drag reduction to achieve hypersonic mach 5 speeds. the first engine run is targeted for 2019
Hypermach will fly and unmanned scale model in 2018. First flight of the HyperStar is now expected in 2025, with certification and entry into service slated to follow in 2028, he said. Both estimates are three years later than what was announced previously. HyperMach has begun to take orders for its SSBJ, and Lugg said he soon expects to close the company’s “first multi-aircraft unit order with a leading global private charter firm.” Current price of the HyperStar is $180 million, though that will escalate to $220 million sometime before the Paris Airshow in June. If the unmanned version is successful, then Hypermach will get a ton of funding from the US military to create hypersonic drones and hypersonic missiles. The civil hypersonic transport would be separate from the military effort. However, the military funds would be used to help create the civil transport.
HyperMach Aerospace is developing an innovative hybrid turbofan ramjet-powered business jet that will cruise at 80,000 ft. and fly close to the edge of hypersonic speed at Mach 5. Dubbed the HyperStar, the aircraft will carry up to 36 passengers on routes up to 7,000 nm. HyperMach plans to announce its airframe partner in the second quarter of 2017 and is preparing to begin high-speed wind-tunnel tests at an undisclosed site in Europe in May. Low-speed wind tunnel tests, which will take place in the U.S., are set to begin next June.
Sonic boom will be mitigated by the use of electromagnetic drag reduction technology (EDRT), which will generate a plasma ion field around parts of the structure to activate a form of laminar flow control. The plasma field is intended to not only help reduce heat flux loads on the HyperStar’s ceramic composite skin, but to also reduce the source of shock waves to lessen the N-pressure wave that causes the sonic boom.
First full engine run of the aircraft’s equally innovative H-Magjet 5500-X powerplant is targeted for 2019. The 76,000-pounds-thrust hybrid turbofan ramjet has no conventional shaft and will instead be based around a superconducting turbo power core ring, an ion plasma injection combustor and an electromagnetic compressor and associated bypass fans.
Aerion has been developing a supersonic business jet since the early 2000s. They are getting engineering assistance and will launch the certification program for its trijet AS2 by the end of 2017. With a natural-laminar-flow wing for efficiency at supersonic and subsonic speeds, the AS2 is designed to fly 4,750 nm at Mach 1.4 and 5,300 nm at Mach 0.95. Fractional ownership operator Flexjet has ordered 20 AS2s for transoceanic services beginning in 2023.
Boom participated in a Y Combinator startup incubation program in early 2016, and has been funded by Y Combinator, Sam Altman, Seraph Group, Eight Partners, and others. Richard Branson confirmed options for 10 aircraft for Virgin Atlantic; in addition, Virgin Galactic’s subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, will play a role in manufacturing and testing. Boom also says they have options for an additional 15 aircraft to a European carrier that it declined to name, bringing the total value of options to $5 billion
Boom is developing a 50-seat trijet that will cruise at Mach 2.2 for the same ticket price as subsonic business class. The demonstrator, which will be powered by three General Electric CJ610 turbojets, will be used to expand the subsonic flight envelope in Colorado starting in late 2017. Supersonic flight tests will then be conducted in California, in the restricted airspace around Edwards AFB. As engine selection is the pacing item for the entire project, Boom intends to down-select to the appropriate core in 2017-2018 to enable entry into service by 2023.
The actual sales price of the aircraft is $200M, plus options and interior, in 2016 dollars. On an available premium-seat-mile basis, the Boom jet is meaningfully less expensive than subsonic wide body aircraft.
Spike Aerospace of Boston is self-funding a design incorporating a pair of unspecified 20,000-pounds-thrust engines. Predicting that most supersonic flying will be over water, Spike has reduced its costs and development timescale by dispensing with boom-reduction measures. A Multiplex Digital cabin – the windowless walls of which are covered by thin display screens projecting entertainment – is another cost saver. Seating 12 to 18 passengers, the S-512 will cruise at Mach 1.6 and cover 5,850 nm supersonic, or 4,050 nm subsonic. Recent months have been spent forging alliances with other aerospace companies and pondering engine selection. First flight target is “early 2020s” with first deliveries in 2022-23.
The ability to fly supersonic over land will be the game changer for supersonic business jets, but that’s not likely to happen for another 10 to 15 years, says Gulfstream, which is actively but quietly studying the concept.
“The earliest will be 2025-2030,” says Dan Nale, SVP for programs, engineering and test. “That’s the earliest the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) process can change the rules to allow it [supersonic over land flight].” Meanwhile Gulfstream, which has conducted more studies into supersonic flight and mitigation of the sonic boom than any other business jet manufacturer, continues to carry out original research, participate in regulatory issues and undertake paper studies.
Supersonic plane builders are planning to fly over the ocean only until the over land flight rules are resolved.
“We’re doing a lot of the preliminary design studies,” says Nale, who believes the sonic boom and engine emissions from flying that fast at altitude will be the two major issues to overcome. Next step is for NASA to fly its proposed supersonic demonstrator, on which it is working with Lockheed Martin. “Gulfstream is involved as part of NASA’s consulting review panel,” he adds.
Gulfstream believes the aircraft must be shaped to minimize the boom, and to that end it earlier test-flew an extending nose on a NASA F-15. That Pinocchio-like proboscis is now on display in the lobby of the company’s advanced acoustics lab in Savannah.
Lockheed Martin is completing preliminary design of a low-boom flight demonstrator as part of NASA’s Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) project. The single-engine, Mach 1.4+ X-plane is intended to mimic the shockwave signature of a 100- to 120-seat supersonic airliner and show that a shaped sonic boom of 75 PLdB is quiet enough to permit supersonic flight over land. NASA plans to fly the competitively procured X-plane in 2019 and begin community acceptance testing in 2020
SOURCES- Aviation Week, Boom Technologies, Hypermach, Sonicblue, NASA, Lockheed Martin, Spike Aerospace, Aerion, Airbus
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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