Europe Eyes High-Speed Aircraft Test

Don't give up yet on going to visit your auntie in Australia (or if you are in Australia, your granny in Scotland). The European Commission is planning to flight-test a high-speed aircraft as it takes another step towards an airliner that can fly from Brussels to Sydney in under 4 hours.

Concept: Reaction Engines

As part of the sixth call for projects under its Framework 7 research program, the EC has set aside €5 million ($6.15 million) for the sub-scale flight test of a high-speed transport design. It doesn't seem like much money, but Europe is hoping that Australia, Japan and Russia will put a similar amount of funding into complementary projects.

Based on the results of previous  research projects, ATLLAS I/II and LAPCAT I/II, "Europe  wants to do a flight test in the Mach 3-4 range," says Remy Denos, aeronautics research program officer with the EC's Research & Innovation Directorate. Australia, Japan and Russia have "expressed interest" in joining forces with Europe, he says.

Proposals submitted for the new high-speed air transport project will be eligible only if they are coordinated with complementary proposals from at least two of the other three countries, the EC says. That would mean about €15 million in government funding, plus whatever industry pitches in. If all four countries cooperate, it would mean €20 million, which might be enough for two demonstrators, Denos says.

Concept: Reaction Engines

There is no shortage of ideas. LAPCAT (Long-Term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies) developed concepts for Mach 5 and Mach 8 transports. Reaction Engines of the UK developed the Mach 5 LAPCAT-A2 concept (above), a 400-tonne, 300-passenger hydrogen-fueled aircraft powered by pre-cooled turbofan-ramjet engines. German's DLR designed the Mach 4.5 LAPCAT-M4 (below), a 720-tonne, 200-passenger kerosene-fueled aircraft with turbo-ramjet engines.
Concept: DLR

DLR also designed the Mach 8 LAPCAT-MR1 (below), a 600-tonne, 300-passenger hydrogen-fueled aircraft that is a blend of waverider and delta wing. The aircraft uses dorsally mounted air-turborocket combined-cycle engines to reach Mach 4, then dual-mode ramjet/scramjets to accelerate to the Mach 8 cruise speed.

Concept: DLR

Although it will be small-scale, the EC's new high-speed aircraft flight-test project looks like an opportunity to take one of these designs - or perhaps EADS's ZEHST (zero-emissions hypersonic transport) concept - to the next stage. But it will still be decades before such an aircraft could enter service, so maybe you should go visit your granny sooner.

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