Supersonic 4,000mph rocket plane could fly people from UK to Australia in just four hours
25 September 2019, 14:40
The passenger jet travels faster than the speed of sound and is expected to be in operation by 2030.
A hypersonic aeroplane that can transport passengers from the UK to Australia in under four hours could be up and running in 10 years' time.
The super-quick jet is five times faster than the speed of sound and can reach highs of 4,143mph, which means the exhausting 20-hour flight to Sydney could be slashed by a staggering 16 hours.
The SABRE (Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine) believes the new-age engines could be in operation by 2030, allowing holidaymakers to travel quicker than was ever thought possible.
Dr Graham Turnock of the UK Space Agency said: "This is not sci-fi. This is not a pipe dream. This is literally in the works.
"It has the potential to turn air travel on its head.
"Certainly the way you conceive air travel will completely change in ten years' time.
"When we have brought the Sabre rocket engine to fruition, that may enable us to get to Australia in perhaps as little as four hours."
Oxford-based UK firm Reaction Engines is developing the hydrogen-powered invention that can thrust an aircraft to Mach 5.5 – twice the speed of Concorde.
It uses liquid gases, including helium, to cool incoming air from 1,000C to -150C in one-hundredth of a second, which stops engine parts melting – a major issue with high-speed travel.
Reaction Engines’ Shaun Driscoll told Stuff: "The main thing with Sabre is it’s like a hybrid of a rocket engine and an aero engine, so it allows a rocket to breathe air
"Rockets really haven’t progressed in 70 years, whereas aero engines have become very efficient.
"So, if you can combine an aero engine and a rocket you can have a very lightweight efficient propulsion system and basically create a space plane. The physics checks out but the challenge is building a test regime."
Ultimately, scientists and engineers are working towards launching a space-plane called Skylon that would take off from a spaceport.
UK Space's Will Whitehorn said: "It would not only allow you to fly around the world hypersonically, and take people from London to Australia outside the atmosphere and have far less long term effect on the atmosphere but it will also allow you to rapidly get much more technology into space."
Although commercial high-speed engines are likely to take decades to develop and roll out, a spaceport is set to launch in Cornwall in 2021.
Test flights for Skylon, which has the ability reach incredible speeds of 19,000mph (Mach 25), could happen as early as 2025.