Lonely Planet Writer

Following successful rocket tests, a superjet will one day fly from London to Sydney in two hours

The next generation of travelling by air has just got closer – and it is mind-boggling.

Next generation technology will see aircraft fly at seven times the speed of sound as air travel enters the hypersonic era
Next generation technology will see aircraft fly at seven times the speed of sound as air travel enters the hypersonic era Image by Sarah Tzinieris / CC BY 2.0

Following the successful experimentation of rocket tests in the Australian desert, experts are now talking about a future where travelling from London to Sydney will take only two hours. According to Techradar.com, it means travelling at over seven times the speed of sound. The most recent tests were part of an on-going series of ten experiments by teams of US and Australian military scientists.

Performed at the Woomera Testing Range, a scramjet attached to a rocket booster hit altitudes of just under 280 kilometres at a speed of Mach 7.5. That leaves the ‘supersonic’ Concorde trailing in its wake as it passes the ‘hypersonic travel’ threshold. The research team’s work under the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) is focused on developing a reliable engine that can hit Mach 7 speeds. At present the record for a manned powered aircraft is close at 6.72. That was set way back in the 1960sby the US X-15 experimental aircraft.

Concorde in its heyday.
Concorde in its heyday. Image by George W / CC BY 2.0

Michael Smart, a hypersonic’s expert involved in the programme said it was an exciting time to be involved with attempts to fly at such speeds. He told AFP that its practical application made it very useful to cover long distances across earth very quickly as well as being an alternative for putting satellites into space. Next year the team will detach the scramjet from its rocket booster by flying it on its own – a step that should be completed by the following year. Australia’s chief scientist Alex Zelinsky described it as “game-changing technology” which could revolutionise air travel across the world.