This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

October 2, 2019

New Hypersonic 'Space Plane'

Want to fly from New York to London in about an hour? Stand by. Your aircraft is arriving, but sadly not soon. With the ability to fly at a speed that five times the speed of sound (4000 miles per hour), this high-tech space plane is powered by a new hypersonic engine called SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine).

Announced by the UK Space Agency
Plans for this high-tech "space plane," capable of jetting across the Atlantic at record speed, were revealed recently by the UK Space Agency. According to the Agency, this technological marvel could be in the air as soon as 2030. Working closely with Australia, the two countries will work together on the world's first "Space Bridge" agreement. The agreement will focus on delivering a plane---or actually, a rocket---that will fly passengers from Europe to Australia in only four hours versus the 21 hours and 37 minutes it currently takes. While flights from London to New York City will probably be slightly over 60 minutes; it could take you that much time just to get from the gate to the runway at times in New York airports.

What Makes this Breakthrough Possible?
The new SABRE hypersonic engine that the scientists at Reaction Engines are currently developing makes these remarkable flight times possible. Using a combination of hydrogen and oxygen for fuel, SABRE is capable of powering a plane to Mach 5.4 (4,000 mph) for rapid commercial travel; Mach 5.4 is over five times the speed of sound; the engine is also capable of propelling the aircraft or rather, spacecraft at Mach 25 (19,000 mph) when soaring into space. Being more energy efficient and less expensive than current air travel does not hurt either.

SABRE Hypersonic Engines Courtesy of Reaction Engines
One challenge of hypersonic flight is handling the risk of the engine overheating. Traveling at supersonic speeds can cause the engine itself to melt. SABRE responds to this challenge by chilling the incoming air with tiny tubes of super-cooled helium; it also captures and utilizes that heat to power the engine. Their "pre-cooler" takes air that comes in at 1,000 degrees centigrade and cools it down to zero in one-twentieth of a second. How clever is that!

Successful Tests reflect a Positive Future
Last April, the Oxfordshire-based firm announced successful tests of their precooler, simulating conditions at Mach 3.3; Mach 3.3 is 50 percent faster than the supersonic turbojet Concorde. The Concorde flew between New York and Paris in what was then a record time of 3.5 hours; it was terminated in 2003 after a catastrophic crash in which 109 people died. The Space Plane is also on par with the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest jet aircraft ever made. Reaction Engines will continue conducting trials in the parts; test flights are scheduled to begin in mid-2020 with commercial flights slated for the 2030s. The UK government has already invested 60 million (around $74 million USD at the current rate of exchange) into SABRE; that figure has also been matched by Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, and Boeing. We see a rosy future for reducing air travel times for long distances. And just as there was a market for the Concorde, so will there be for the Hypersonic Space Plane.

Special thanks to The Robb Report for their coverage of this important breakthrough..


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