Last week, we reported on the Solar Impulse plane showcased at JFK Airport which can fly for 26 hours straight without fuel. Equally groundbreaking, but more on the traditional path of aviation development, is the A2, a planned hypersonic plane that will go from NYC to Paris in 57 minutes. The A2 is part of a project called LAPCAT II by the European Space Agency (ESA). The aim of the project is to “reduce the duration of antipodal flights (that is, flights between two diametrically opposite points on the globe) to less than two to four hours.”
To accomplish the goals, the aircraft must travel at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 8 (5577 to 8912 miles/hour). As a comparison, the advised Mach speed for the Concorde was 2.0. The airplane would be 139 meters long and could carry 300 passengers, with engines powered by hydrogen and oxygen. The engine itself is already being used on the Ariane rocket, but the LAPCAT II engineers are still looking for a way to cool the engine down enough so that it the oxygen can react with the hydrogen. They hope to test the engine in flight by 2019.
We can’t help but wonder what the impacts of such a fast plane might be, not only for personal travel but also the transportation of goods and ideas. Does it completely alter the meaning of “local”? Maybe can ideas spread faster, but companies may concentrate themselves as need for satellite offices are reduced. If this clean technology can be harnessed at an affordable scale, will architects want to source unique building materials from other locations, thereby reversing the hyperlocal movement? And of course, will they ever be able to make this type of technology safe for the average flier?
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