Wondrous Waverider Tested
To get an idea of how fast this is, remember that Concorde had a cruising speed of Mach 2, flying London to New York in just over three hours, but even that would be seen as slow if new hypersonic aircraft become reality.
Wondrous Waverider Tested
Mach numbers represent the ratio of the speed of an object to that of sound, Mach 1 means travelling at around 768mph, exact speed being temperature and altitude dependant, so that to travel at Mach 6 - six times the speed of sound would mean hurtling through the air at around 4,300mph.
To get an idea of how fast this is, remember that Concorde had a cruising speed of Mach 2, flying London to New York in just over three hours, but even that would be seen as slow if new hypersonic aircraft become reality. To that end, the US military has conducted an unfortunately failed test flight of the prototype hypersonic jet Waverider, aiming for Mach 6 speed.
Such velocity would slash the New York to London journey time to a mere 60 minutes, and indeed, during a test in June 2011, Waverider travelled at Mach 5, but failed to go faster, though this is but one of several projects currently under way to create a working hypersonic aircraft design.
It is hoped that such research will help to plan and construct commercial airliner capable of such extreme velocities, to replace Concorde, which was decommissioned in 2003, and is sorely missed by some travellers. Using a B-52 bomber to lift the wingless unmanned jet - from US Edwards Air Force Base in California - to 50,000 ft before releasing it, and after a free fall of about four seconds, the engine of the X-51A Waverider was supposed to ignite.
Even though this test failed due to technical problems, there is no doubt that, if it can be made to work, such engine technology could enable the US military to strike a target anywhere on Earth within an hour, though the passenger angle is deemed more important by the researchers.
The 8m long Waverider craft should have climbed to 70,000ft, eventually reaching Mach 6 for about five minutes before the craft then fell into the Pacific ocean, in a repeat of last summer, when Waverider reached Mach 5, the engine failing to attain full power unfortunately. All the same,European aerospace and defence giant EADS - believing that hypersonic passenger flights are inevitable - in 2011, EADS presented a commercial aircraft designed to fly at Mach 4, in concept form.
Strong interest on both sides of the Atlantic - especially on the face of prospective journey times between Paris and Tokyo of a mere 2.5 hours - could mean that despite such an aircraft being very expensive, due to the enormous energy requirements for such speeds, that within a generation, there may be a viable commercial aircraft in operation.