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Science Technology

Space Plane to Offer 2 Hour Flight around the World 214

Posted by samzenpus
from the forget-80-days dept.
secretsather writes "Two hour flights to the other side of the world may seem like a scene from a science fiction movie; but the technology is in place, and a plane that can do just that is currently in development. While it looks like a scene from a flight simulator, the Astrox space plane is the real deal, and the Astrox Corporation says it could revolutionize the transportation industry. Traveling as fast as Mach 25 with at least 30 minutes of space shuttle-like views while in orbit is the highlight of this plane, and The Astrox Corporation, along with their partners, are claiming to have finally overcome their largest problem, mixing fuel."
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Space Plane To Offer 2-Hour Flight Around the World

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  • by rednip (186217) * <rednip&gmail,com> on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:12PM (#17383190) Journal

    Sure the fight may last only 2 hours, but after spending much of that time in heavy acceleration, I wonder how long it would take to recover. Also, wouldn't passengers need to be in really good health to endure such a journey, and would they need to wear flight suits like fighter pilots just to keep from blacking out? I suspect that regular passenger use may be out of the question if these problems aren't solved by altitude/weightlessness.

    Wikipedia's entry for Scramjet [wikipedia.org] mentions

    Scram jets might be able to accelerate from approximately Mach 5-7 to around somewhere between half of orbital velocity and orbital velocity (X-30 research suggested that Mach 17 might be the limit compared to an orbital speed of Mach 25, and other studies put the upper speed limit for a pure scram jet engine between Mach 10 and 25, depending on the assumptions made

    As the company claims a top speed of Mach 25, could this be the 'cheap' way to get to low Earth orbit?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ztransform (929641)

      Also, wouldn't passengers need to be in really good health to endure such a journey, and would they need to wear flight suits like fighter pilots just to keep from blacking out?

      The article didn't appear to mention acceleration. I'm sure it would be impractical for any mass transport system to accelerate too quickly. However it is entirely possible to have a very fast flight without unreasonable acceleration forces placed on the human body (smacking into another object excepted).

      As for the jetlag issue, is it any worse than getting up 6am during the work days, and partying until 6am on weekends? That to me is the more serious jetlag issue! Transcontinental flight has never been

    • by rewt66 (738525) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:33PM (#17383334)
      Well, let's see. x=(a t^2) / 2. Let's say a = 3.2 ft/sec^2 (1/10 g), so we're not talking real heavy acceleration here. t = 1 hour = 3600 seconds. (We'll use the other hour to decelerate.) Then...

      x = 20,736,000 feet = 3927 miles. The whole, two hour flight would be 7854 miles. Not quite halfway around the world (12000 miles).

      To do halfway around the world in 2 hours, we need to get 6000 miles = 31,680,000 feet, accelerating from zero, in 1 hour = 3600 seconds. For that, we need a = 2x / t^2 = 4.89 ft / sec^2 = 0.15 g.

      Whether that's too much to be comfortable or healthy, I don't know.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Khabok (940349)
        I used to love this old ride called The Gravitron. There's a similar one out there called SpacShip 2000. It's a big flying-saucer looking thing with foam pads all around the insides nd no restraints or anything. Passangers stand with their backs against the pads and the ride spins them up to slightly above 1g for roughly three minutes. I'm here to tell ya, even that isn't uncomfortable. It didn't require especially fit people to go on this ride. It didn't even have a height or age requirement. Sure i
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by omgamibig (977963)
        Would you like to stop as well?
      • by fermion (181285)
        There are two additional considerations here. First, the vehicle will not be accelerating at an equal rate throughout the whole trip. The vehicle will in fact be accelerating to LEO, perhaps 100 miles or so, and then orbit with minimal power for 1/2 hour or so, then deorbit, which again will involve significant acceleration.

        Second, the time in orbit does not necessarily depend solely on distance between the two points. One can adjust altitude, flight path, and in the process speed, to create an optim

    • by jpellino (202698) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:52PM (#17383442)
      Jetlag isn't about acceleration per se - it's about desynchronization of your circadian clock with that of your surroundings.
      I can get you jet lagged by putting you in an isolation suite and resetting the clock you pay attention to, no acceleration involved.
      That being said, the human body takes about a day to resynchronize from a shift of an hour.
      I suppose you need to accelerate to get that far that fast if you do it by travel, but you can put away the equations that figure the precise acceleration of this plane to discuss jet lag.
      • My circadian clock must be broken then. I can't remember the last time I slept to anything resembling a schedule. (In case you're curious, it's 2:18am as I post this and I'm wide awake.)
        • by thedbp (443047)
          Put down the rolled up Benjamin. Get help. And clean off all those goddamn razor blades.
      • Go from NY to CA. +3 hours. Wake up at 4am, sit around, do nothing until breakfast (6am/9am). Work until 11pm (2am). Repeat.

        Then fly to Germany (-6 hours). Perform the same tasks, but now you're getting up at 1am (which was really 11pm).

        Yeah, so I was messed up for about 2 months afterwards...
      • Programmers don't get jet lag.

        (or as some would say, they're permanently lagged - making 25 hours of work a day)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cyclone96 (129449) *
      Also, wouldn't passengers need to be in really good health to endure such a journey, and would they need to wear flight suits like fighter pilots just to keep from blacking out?

      Not really. The space shuttle is in orbit at 5 miles/second about 8 1/2 minutes after liftoff, and it's maximum G forces are limited to 3 G's, something akin to a terrestrial roller coaster. If you listen during a launch, you can hear the commentator mention towards the end of ascent that the main engines are throttling back. The
      • by Trizor (797662) <trizor@gmail.com> on Thursday December 28, 2006 @09:45AM (#17387160)
        There are two throttle backs during orbiter ascent, neither of which have to do with G forces. The first occurs at approximately 1:31 when the shuttle hits Max-Q, maximum aerodynamic pressure. Once through Max-Q the shuttle is throttled back up until after the 8 minute mark, when the final throttle back commences. This is to turn the engines off before all fuel in the external tank is exhausted, because an emergency shutdown, the one caused by the sensors in the ET is rather painful on the turbopumps, and while better than the explosively catastrophic failure that would occur should the turbopumps run dry, is still not a very happy option. The shuttle doesn't achieve excessive G's by design.
  • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:16PM (#17383222) Homepage
    That would bring me back to this stinking, shitty, damp, miserable, yob infested, backwards, cold, poor, tacky, cretin filled swamp. Can they drop me off half way please?
    • Wow! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A Congressman reads and posts on Slashdot! Who'd have figured...?
    • UK, I take it? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jimmyfergus (726978)

      I assume you're talking about the UK, based on terminology and your URL.

      A big difference between the UK and the USA is that in the latter, most people think it's the greatest place on earth (usually those who've never lived anywhere else), and it isn't; in the UK most think it's a shithole (usually those who've never lived anywhere else), and it isn't. At a certain point your miserable attitude becomes self-fulfilling. You should actually try hopping to the other side of the world and see how much they e

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ozmanjusri (601766)
        see how much they enjoy the company of whinging poms.

        We're certainly happy to give them something else to whinge about http://www.abc.net.au/cricket/scores/ckt_scorecar d _1016_4.htm [abc.net.au].

        Though this scramjet will wreck one of the classic English visitor jokes;

        Q: How can you tell when a 747 full of poms lands in Australia?
        A: The whining keeps going after the engines have been shut off...

  • by overeduc8ed (799654) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:18PM (#17383232)
    ... are claiming to have finally overcome their largest problem, mixing fuel."

    Their new college intern probably solved this problem for them. Beer before liquor, never been sicker... now, OTOH, liquor before beer...

  • Sci Fi (Score:5, Funny)

    by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:20PM (#17383246)
    Two hour flights to the other side of the world may seem like a scene from a science fiction movie;

    At this point in my life, mating seems like science fiction let alone flying around the world in a space plane.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by risk one (1013529)
      At this point in my life, mating seems like science fiction ...

      I am instantly reminded of the docking sequence from 2001.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Paradise Pete (33184)
      At this point in my life, mating seems like science fiction let alone flying around the world in a space plane.

      I don't in what sense you're using mate, but unless it involves chess here's what you do:

      1. Take two weeks vacation.
      2. Fly to the Central American country of your choice.
      3. Hang out for two weeks, and explain why you're there.

      I guarantee you will have offered to you whatever it is you're looking for*.

      *Of course, the usual "be careful what you wish for" caveat applies.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      Maybe you have set your sights wrong. Go and hang out on the other side of town - the blue-collar side. You'll pretty quick find a nice, honest, hard working girl that will admire you, she won't have a friggen clue what you are talking about, but she'll listen kindly and if you treat her nice, she'll make a good and devoted wife, that will be very happy for having married up. Believe me, the last thing you want is an intellectual, rich-daddy, whining, miss-world, cugal, girlfriend - so go and look for th
      • by raehl (609729)
        As an added bonus, you won't even need to buy her shoes.*

        * For best results, confine to kitchen.
      • by freeweed (309734)
        I think it says a lot about Slashdotters that such an extreme, polar opposite description of women gets modded up Informative. Might explain the GP's problem with meeting any... :)
    • Re:Sci Fi (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 28, 2006 @12:59AM (#17384772)
      I put on my spacesuit and helmet...
  • by wes33 (698200) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:21PM (#17383248)
    wasn't the vaporware story posted earlier today ... if this wasn't on the list it should be. Some preliminary tests of scramjets have been done. Very preliminary. Not by these guys.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by TodMinuit (1026042)
      Some preliminary tests of scramjets have been done. Very preliminary. Not by these guys.

      Pish-posh! Just look at their mockup: http://www.blorge.com/images/Hypersonicspaceplanes promise2hourflights_E607/hypersonic4.gif [blorge.com] They clearly know what they're doing.
    • From the article:

      The research team has currently tested the combustor at Mach 2 in a supersonic wind tunnel, and Kothari plans to test both his design and the combustor in a small, model space plane before marketing their vehicle design.

      The F4 Phantom II and other aircraft from decades ago were able to approach Mach 3, without using a scramjet. (Admittedly, the afterburners were ramjets, but that still isn't scramjet tech.) NASA-Dryden (at Edwards AFB) has recently conducted successful tests with

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheGavster (774657)
        Thrust isn't the issue here, the problem is getting the combustor to work at any speed above mach 1. Various existing planes go supersonic with engines that slow down the supersonic airstream before using it for combustion. This works, to a point. Past a certain point, the pressure and heat build up and either melt or explode the engine. On the Blackbird, for example, bypasses are built into the engine to vent a good portion of the air from the compressor; slowing down a mach 3 airstream creates so much hea
        • by wasted (94866)
          I am not an engineer by any means, or even close. But, if I understand the explanation, it is relatively easy (as in going to the Moon is relatively easy compared to going to Pluto,) to lose Mach 2 of airstream velocity between the inlet and compressor compared to velocities in excess of that - am I correct in this case? If so, do you know why NASA-Dryden started their scramjet tests at Mach 5?

          Thanks for the info.
      • by Gorobei (127755)
        (Admittedly, the afterburners were ramjets, but that still isn't scramjet tech.)

        Almost by definition, afterburners (fuel dumps after the turbine) are not ramjets (tubes with clever geometry that are engines.) Afterburners are an inefficient way to get a bit more thrust for a short time (e.g. takeoff, evasion,) ramjets are engines (that don't work until you have a fair bit of airspeed.)

        You can mix ramjets and rockets (stuff the ramjet with solid fuel, use it as a booster to get to speed,) but ramjets and j
  • Yeah right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:23PM (#17383256) Homepage Journal
    Scramjets are the "fusion" of aircraft research. Always 10-20 years away. I'll believe it when I see something flying.
    • Re:Yeah right (Score:4, Insightful)

      by udderly (890305) * on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:56PM (#17383474)
      I'm with you. Before I go and get all excited, I'm going to have to see something more than a cheesy GIF on a tech website that I've never heard of.

      I also want my flying car that I was promised 35 years ago.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by wtansill (576643)
        I also want my flying car that I was promised 35 years ago.
        Drive with me. It's almost the same thing.
      • Before I go and get all excited, I'm going to have to see something more than a cheesy GIF
        Dude! I've seen full-length movies where people can go faster than light. They use this thing called warp drive [wikipedia.org] powered by antimatter and Scotch whiskey.
    • Something flying (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Esteanil (710082)

      Scramjets are the "fusion" of aircraft research. Always 10-20 years away. I'll believe it when I see something flying.

      Nasa X-43A Scramjet [nasa.gov] (With videos) - First flew in 2004
      First successful scramjet (2001) [af.mil] (With video)

      More out there. Of course, none of these have launched under their own power, yet. But the scramjet concept certainly works.
      The Astrox Corporation does not seem to have updated their web site recently, but the latest bit on their news page (Nov.05) is a contract from ATK/GASL (NASA's co

      • Of course, none of these have launched under their own power, yet. But the scramjet concept certainly works.

        I could just as easily say, "of course, none of these fusion reactors have sustained the reaction using their own power, yet. But the fusion concept certainly works."

        Of course, the "concept" works. But as usual, the devil is in the details of making these incredibly fragile and complex devices work in a practical, economical and reliable way.

        • by Esteanil (710082)
          Well, there are a few differences: Mainly the fact that fusion still needs large theoretical breakthroughs to become viable, and that even its staunchest advocates admit it's several decades away.

          In scramjets, it's "just" engineering. The process works. They've reached Mach 10(7000 mph), breaking the previous jet-powered aircraft record by 4500 mph.
          Still might take a long while before it's in commercial use though. Heck, even new aircraft designs seem to take a couple of decades to get into production th
        • The experimental scramjets have generated their own power. What they haven't done is provided the zero to mach 3 acceleration stage; that's been done with a conventional airplane and a rocket. Even a commercialized craft using a scramjet will probably need a more conventional engine to get off the ground and up to supersonic speeds.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Deadstick (535032)
        Of course, none of these have launched under their own power, yet.

        And none of them are going to. One of the limitations of scramjets (and the earlier ramjets) is that they have no static thrust: they have to be hauling considerable ass before they'll even start up. They have to serve as auxiliary propulsion for a vehicle that is launched by something else.

        rj

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:24PM (#17383262)
    1/2 hour - drive to space-port
    2.0 hours - security/checkin
    1/2 hours - sit on space-plane tarmac
    2.0 hours - flight
    1/2 hour - baggage claim
    1/2 hour - drive from space-port
    • by Rob Kaper (5960)
      Relocate. Here in Rotterdam it'd be more like:

      15 minutes to (space|air)port.
      15 minutes check-in including security.
      120 minutes flight time.
      15 minutes bagage claim.
      15 minutes to location.

      Don't consider budget options (major airports, living in the USA, etc.) as the norm.
  • by Atlantis-Rising (857278) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:24PM (#17383264) Homepage
    I actually thought about this a while ago, when I read on Wikipedia that in a trans-atlantic abort, the space-shuttle would take only twenty-minutes from SSME ignition to touchdown in Europe or Africa. I pointed out to a friend of mine that it would probably cost on the order of half a billion dollars (space shuttle launch is approximately 500 million dollars, plus a million or so to fly it back via 747 to Kennedy), and my friend pointed out that in quite a few cases, it might well be worth it- a milti-billion dollar merger, a head of state's emergency meeting, etc, etc.

    If the space shuttle launched more frequently, of course, the launch costs would decrease significantly and make it even more economically viable.

    This has been a long time in coming- suborbital flight hops are damned fast, and even if it does cost a million bucks a ride, I'm sure there'll be plenty of customers willing to use it.

    • by westlake (615356)
      it might well be worth it- a milti-billion dollar merger, a head of state's emergency meeting, etc, etc.

      The reality is that the principals almost never meet until the deal has been made.

      There are good arguments for keeping your distance. FDR's failing health colors every intepretation of the Yalta Conference, even though it is not at all clear that he had any better cards to play.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Animats (122034)

      in quite a few cases, it might well be worth it- a multi-billion dollar merger, a head of state's emergency meeting, etc, etc.

      Unlikely. That's what phones are for. Mergers aren't rush jobs, anyway; they take weeks to months to set up, half the time they fall through, and most of the time they lose money for the stockholders. There are some efforts underway to design a supersonic business jet [aviationweek.com], but the price has to be no more than 2x that of a comparably sized Grumman Gulfstream for it to sell. The

    • First of all, you're not being consistent. First you said it was half a billion dollars just to fly one trip, and then you suggested one million dollars a ride. That's utterly ridiculous. At that price, and the urgency of the mission, you are only going to have one effective passenger. And the trip will need to recoup the initial investment into the aircraft and the likely massive maintenance costs (remember, for fast transport it has to always be in condition to run). You're looking at several billion doll
      • First of all, you're not being consistent. First you said it was half a billion dollars just to fly one trip, and then you suggested one million dollars a ride. That's utterly ridiculous. At that price, and the urgency of the mission, you are only going to have one effective passenger. And the trip will need to recoup the initial investment into the aircraft and the likely massive maintenance costs (remember, for fast transport it has to always be in condition to run). You're looking at several billion doll

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drsquare (530038)
      The shuttle wouldn't be much use for an emergency meeting considering how long it takes to prepare for a launch. Probably quicker to row there.
      • Damn...wish I had mod points. I was going to say Months of prep for minutes of flight.
      • Or hire your ass into an SR-71 blackbird, if you've got the cash to pay for a shuttle launch. I agree.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by istartedi (132515)

          It's funny you mentioned that. Just the other day I was surfing around and came across this [blackbirds.net]. Now of course, like the man says, it could be done faster; but how many executive dollars does it take to equal genuine Cold War, officer barking in your ear, do-or-die mission pressure? Nevermind the nasty chemicals and mid-air refueling procedure the thing went through (thing actually leaks fuel until the skin heats up and seals the tanks!). It's not as bad as a shuttle, of course, but still. Ouch.

          • Actually, I'm not really surprised- most of that looks quite routine, basically just checking to make sure everything's working properly. I imagine they allot so much time so that if something is wrong, they have time to fix it before the plane lifts. The fact that the process can be accelerated considerably probably reinforces that theory.

            Now, having it mid-air refuled (because yes, it does leak jet fuel until it's warmed up and then has to refuel and take off on it's mission) is probably the problem.

            Also,
            • by istartedi (132515)

              Yep, I'm sure this could be highly modified for civilian use. Obviously all the steps relating to the camera can be eliminated. I wonder how many passengers it could accomodate by removing the recon equipment. I imagine fuel and engine takes up almost all available space. I recall seeing a TV interview with a crew, and they remarked they were too busy to enjoy the views! Now, maybe this was because they were wrapped up making sure the pictures got taken, and didn't get shot down; but maybe the thing re

              • One problem is that all the equipment for constructing the SR-71 was destroyed, and even if you could magic it out of thin air, the SR-71 is a 40 year old design. You'd probably be better off scrapping the design and using it as a starting point for a modern design.

                Um... say you design it for three passengers, Mach 3.5 travel, etc, etc. With no recon equipment and scramjet-oriented propulsion like on the SR-71 (which got more efficient as it got faster), you could probably make a good little speedster.

                Plus,
  • Bloatware (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toby The Economist (811138) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:25PM (#17383268)
    Prior 9/11; two hours pre-flight, eight hours in flight, half hour at the other end : 10.5 hours.

    Post 9/11; four hours pre-flight, eight hours in flight, one hour at the other end : 13 hours

    Hyperdrive; four hours pre-flight, two hours in flight, one hour at the other end : 7 hours.

    Pre-flight security bloatware, god-dammit. I upgrade my plane so it's four times faster and I'm still only 50% better off than I was originally!

    • by Vengeance (46019)
      It's Airline Security Vista!
    • Re:Bloatware (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Khomar (529552) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @10:32PM (#17383996) Journal
      Post 9/11; four hours pre-flight, eight hours in flight, one hour at the other end : 13 hours

      For a flight to London maybe that is correct, but for a long international flight the situation looks much better. For example, the flight from Los Angeles, USA to Sydney, Australia takes somewhere around 18 hours today (depending on the jet stream). In this scenario, you go from 23 hours to 7. That is a huge improvement. This new plane is for the very long flights that take you around the world.

      After having flown the Sydney to L.A. flight a number of times, I laugh whenever I hear someone complaining about a "long" domestic flight. I would much rather take the two-hour-with-a-great-view flight than endure 18 hours on a single plane.

    • by raehl (609729)
      Prior 9/11; two hours pre-flight, eight hours in flight, half hour at the other end : 10.5 hours.

      Post 9/11; four hours pre-flight, eight hours in flight, one hour at the other end : 13 hours


      Where are you flying out of?

      Aside from odd days like when TSA suddenly decides to not let anyone take any liquids on the plane, I haven't noticed any difference between pre- and post- 9/11 total air travel load-in/out times. About the only change I have noticed is that the cutoff for checking bags is 15-30 minutes earli
  • The "blog post" doesn't have much more meat than the article summary, and all it does is point at the company's website. It certainly seems like they have a lot more testing to do before anything applicable to the real world will be achieved.
  • Nice pic (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rolo Tomasi (538414) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:28PM (#17383294) Homepage Journal
    That picture is awesome. Reminds me of Elite II. I just hope they didn't forget to buy atmospheric shielding.
    • by oni (41625)
      haha. I was thinking the same thing!
    • by Rufus211 (221883)
      That picture is awesome. Reminds me of Elite II. I just hope they didn't forget to buy atmospheric shielding.

      I was thinking the same thing. If you're claiming you're going to revolutionize the industry, at least have a product mockup that looks like it's from this century. As much as we all hate marketing, it makes a huge difference.
      • To whom? Using their resources to impress the Slashdot userbase isn't as important to them as actually realizing the technology I imagine.
  • The Real Problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by coobird (960609) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:35PM (#17383346) Homepage

    The real problems with scramjets [wikipedia.org] and ramjets [wikipedia.org] have been that the engine (and the vehicle) need to be brought to a speed where the ramjets can operate.

    I'm sure many of you have seen videos of those German V-1 buzzbombs [wikipedia.org] launched by the Germans during World War II. The reason for those launchers was to get those ramjets to operational speed -- For a ramjet to work, it must have airflow. Without it, the engine just won't light.

    Scramjets are just an extension of the ramjet where the airflow within the engine is at supersonic speeds. A scramjet cannot fire unless the vehicle is brought to supersonic speeds. The NASA tests of the X-43 [wikipedia.org] were conducted by first carrying the X-43 mated with a rocket up to 43,000 ft by the B-52 bomber, then dropping the rocket which carries the X-43 up to 100,000 ft and accelerates it to over Mach 6, and finally the X-43 lights its scramjets and accelerates to Mach 10.

    The real problem is bringing the scramjet up to the required speeds for operation. The real revolution to space travel or suborbital travel is to achieve a single-stage-to-orbit [wikipedia.org](SSTO) system, where one doesn't need multiple stages (B-52 mothership, Pegasus rocket, etc.) in order to complete the trip.

    • by uradu (10768)
      Yeah, they don't seem to touch on that. Most likely any such space plane will need two sets of engines, one for take-off and to reach hypersonic speed, and then the scramjets. A sweet solution would be to develop a hybrid multi-mode engine that incorporates some sort of conventional jets with variable bypass ratio--with increasing speed the bypass increases and feeds into the scramjet until that reaches operational speed, at which point the conventional jet is completely bypassed and the entire airflow is f
    • by rcw-home (122017)
      The V-1 actually used a pulsejet, not a ramjet. Pulsejets have been built that work when stationary (some R/C aircraft use them as a substitute for a turbojet or ducted fan), and their maximum speed (Wikipedia says the V-1 reached 390mph) is about that at which many ramjet designs start working.
    • by Deadstick (535032)
      The reason for those launchers was to get those ramjets to operational speed -- For a ramjet to work, it must have airflow. Without it, the engine just won't light.

      No. You're right about ramjets, but the V-1 did not have one: it had a pulsejet, which started up perfectly well before the launch (though the thrust did increase with airspeed, as it does in other jet engines). It was several years after WW2 before any aircraft flew under ramjet power.

      The V-1 needed the launch rail because it was a pilotless

  • Yeah, right.

    And I'll be travelling to the spaceport in my helicar.

    I'm glad they've figured out how to mix the fuel, though. I've heard that glitches can occur when rocket fuel isn't mixed well. [sfgate.com]
  • the Astrox Corporation says it could revolutionize the transportation industry.

    The Concord was also supposed to ignite a revolution in air travel.

    How many people need to be anywhere in two hours?

    ---if it means paying a very hefty Concord-like surcharge over first-class air?

    How many airports can handle this beast?

    ---if the number is small, you will be spending hours in transit before you board.

    Post 9/11, how many airlines remain financially strong enough to invest in radically new technology, particul

    • by AuMatar (183847)
      If it has a Concord like surcharge, near 0. If it was the cost of current tickets (or 50% more)- plenty. Add an hour and a half travel time (if you go carry on). For 6 hours of travel time I can visit my parents for the weekend. Or a friend on the other side of the country. Or take a quick trip to NY, or Vegas. Depending on price, even Europe or Japan. If it can be done cheaply, it would revolutionize tourism by allowing what amounts to weekend road trips to anywhere in the world. Its all about p
    • by Forbman (794277)
      As long as the Board can partake of the flights, then the top executives will, too. But I wonder if one of the main users will be some of the blacker aspects of government agencies. There might even be a bidding war between DHL, FedEX, UPS and USPS for shipping things that absolutely have to get there...2 hrs from now.
  • by Salvance (1014001) * on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:56PM (#17383464) Homepage Journal
    Will enough people really want to spend $100K or so to travel halfway around the world in 2 hours vs. 20? After the novelty of going into space wears off for the rich, I see this as being about as exciting (and economically feasible) as the Concorde.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by supabeast! (84658)

      Will enough people really want to spend $100K or so to travel halfway around the world in 2 hours vs. 20? After the novelty of going into space wears off for the rich, I see this as being about as exciting (and economically feasible) as the Concorde.

      The Concorde was economically feasible; after raising prices in the mid-to-late-1980s British Airways turned some hefty profits from their Concordes. Air France probably could have done the same if it had been owned by rational people at the time, but French socialists aren't especially good at business. But subsonic air travel is much more profitable, so grounding the planes made a lot of sense once BA had privatized; had there actually been any competition in the market BA would probably have lost many o

    • by Deadstick (535032)
      about as exciting (and economically feasible) as the Concorde

      David Frost found it economically feasible some 400 times...

      rj

  • Heinlein's Friday (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MikeMc (91878) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:59PM (#17383478) Homepage
    You know, every day, the world seems more and more like Heinlein's novel "Friday" -- massively interlocked superconglomerate corporations owning all that is ownable, balkanization of territories, a global computer network containing all recorded movies, music and information, and now this, something akin to the superballistic planes.

    I'm actually interested to see if the rough-and-tumble in the boardroom starts to spill out into the streets, a proxy war fought by mercenaries, hurting corporations where they're most vulnerable -- the bank account and their reputations.

    To me, it's absolutely uncanny how dead-on he was about the changes to society the future would bring. The only thing I'd disagree about with his insight is how long it would take for things to fall apart -- IMHO he was an optimist.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AuMatar (183847)
      If you write enough sci-fi books, some of your predictions will be right. I love Heinlein, but he wrote a lot of books. Thats a lot of chances to be right. When asked to make actual predictions, he's not nearly as good (for example, he predicted that we'd be rationing food by now due to worldwide starvation. Technology instead increased food generation by orders of magnitude).

      I always think we're closer to Stranger myself- the US government seems a lot like theirs, and it has the same religious zealot
    • by zogger (617870)
      yep, pretty close, he's been my fav for nailing the future. Look at major cities, areas akin to the AAs, abandoned areas, offset by guarded gated compounds or "communities". Look at the war in iraq, there are now almost as many "private security contractors"-mercenaries- as there are official US government military people.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2006/12/04/AR2006120401311_pf.html [washingtonpost.com]

      And we saw what happend in NOLA after katrina, it got infested with rifle totin Blackwater goons imm
    • by flyingfsck (986395) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @02:12AM (#17385102)
      Hmm well, 150 years ago, the Hudson Bay Company owned most of North America and the East African Trade Company owned millions of people...

      I tend to think that however bad, the situation today is a whole lot better.
  • tunnel (Score:3, Insightful)

    by senatorpjt (709879) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @09:16PM (#17383544)
    I like the idea of an evacuated maglev tunnel [wikipedia.org]. It's still unrealistic (a tunnel from NY to LA would cost $1 trillion), although, the cost is all in the construction.
  • Whoever owns techblorge is now a happy camper as his google adsense revenue is going through the roof. I suppose he is laughing at the gullible techies that have been hit once again. Bad enough after the algae dupe, whats next the solar stirling cycle refrigerator again ? The vortex tube cooling system. For a site thats meant to have high nerd appeal you thing there would be a little more sophistication about these things.
  • bah (Score:5, Funny)

    by smash (1351) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @10:19PM (#17383932) Homepage Journal
    I've just started design of an aircraft that can fly to mars and back in 3 hours.

    Here's a schematic [reallydodgy.org].

    Can get i get front page of slashdot now? :D

    • Oh man, you are so lucky I wasn't drinking coke when I saw that.
      I would have had to bill you for a replacement keyboard!

    • Hmm, your first problem will be finding a sufficient air supply to ram between Earth and Mars. That forward scoop may have to be a whole helluvalot bigger... :)
      • by smash (1351)
        It goes so fast that it can coast all the way there :D

        The precision guidance is so good that there is no need for manouvering whilst not in orbit. :)

        Watch for the reallydodgy.com IPO soon :D

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by edjs (1043612)
        The schematics clearly show it's a multi-mode atmo/bussard ramjet.
  • real? (Score:2, Funny)

    by arsenix (19636)
    If this plane is so real, why is the only evidence a 3d rendering that looks like it was done with an Apple IIGS?
  • by Pitr (33016)
    Doesn't suborbital flight still take you out of a significant percentange of earths natural cosmic radiation sheild? Isn't that a problem for people who may want to have kids, or whatever? Maybe 2 hours exposure isn't enough to matter, but if you fly often enough, I'd think you'd still be affected.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @11:02PM (#17384140) Homepage Journal
    This sounds like a plea for investors. I wonder if they'll split with a suitcase full of cash for Costa Rica or Brazil?
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug.geekazon@com> on Thursday December 28, 2006 @12:14AM (#17384492) Homepage
    The discussion might have been a lot better if the article (or rather the blog entry) weren't so sorely lacking in details. Kind of makes me miss Roland Piquepaille. You can get a lot more information by Googling "suborbital airliner."

    The blogger suggests that this vehicle is basically a very fast airliner, but this is far from the case. It's a sub-orbital craft that would fly on a parabolic course, thrusting up out of the atmosphere and then coasting the rest of the way. What makes it economically feasible is that a brief, steep climb uses less energy than horizontally plowing through the atmosphere for hours. Most proposed designs use a two-stage launching system. One calls for the airliner to climb to about 50,000 feet and do a midair refueling from a tanker. In another the airliner is carried up by a larger plane and released. In either case the airliner then goes into a steep climb for about 20 minutes and then shuts off its engines, coasting until it nears its destination. It would carry only enough fuel to maintain a holding pattern in case of airport traffic.

    Passengers would be strapped into their seats for the entire flight. No food or beverage service, no restrooms. People most likely will take some sort of medication to avert motion sickness, as they would be weightless for much of the flight. There is a lot of research going into the human factors such as the several Gs acceleration and dealing with weightlessness. The bit about space-shuttle views of Earth kind of mystified me, because in all the designs I've read about there would be no windows. Maybe they were talking about view-screens.

    It's a pretty interesting subject, and almost certainly will be the way we will fly long distances in 20 or 30 years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Richard Kirk (535523)
      A sensible post on atmosphere-skippping aircraft. Thanks. Hope someone else reads it.

      This sort of proposal has been around for a long time. Boeing had a proposal for a giant delta back about 1970. The problem has always been the need for different engine geometries for all the stages in the journey. You can use a complicated piggy-back aircraft design, which has been done - for example the Maia and Gaia flying boats, or the Hotol 2 to be launched from a giant Antonov - but is usually the last desparate at

  • YAWN (Score:3, Insightful)

    by J05H (5625) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @12:51AM (#17384736) Homepage
    wake me when it's flying.

  • The supersponic space has been in development for about 20 years. It seems like all these guys have is a new combuster design which has only been tested at Mach 2, and haven't even mentioned the other huge design challenges. Need to be able to construct an ariframe that can tolerate the extreme temperatures and stress of hypersonic flight. There still has been no long duration or full scale od a SCRAM jet, much less an actual vehicle flight. The hypersonic flight problem is quite daunting, and there lit
  • by Shihar (153932) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @01:18AM (#17384866)
    I really doubt that this thing is going to take off (ha ha, pun) in the near future for two reasons.

    First, scramjets have been talked about forever. No one has yet to do anything more interesting then blow up a few scramjet drones and waste millions. Certainly we are going to get it 'right' at some point, but I am deeply skeptical that it is going to be in the near future. Even if it was in the near future, I am even more skeptical that it would be cost effective enough to operate as a commercial airliner for such a small nitch market.

    Second, who the fuck would be willing to fly these things other then an astronaut? When an astronaut goes up in the space shuttle, they realize that they basically have a significant chance of dying. When your average business man takes a flight, he doesn't expect to be risking his life on an airplane that suffers massive extremes of hot, cold, acceleration, and air pressure. You don't go out of control at mach 25... you just disintegrate.

    I am deeply skeptical that this company is going to make a scramjet, make it economical, and then make it safe enough for commercial use. I am not holding my breath on this one. I give Duke Nukem Forever a better chance of seeing the light of day in this decade then I give to this thing.
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug.geekazon@com> on Thursday December 28, 2006 @04:29AM (#17385546) Homepage
    For the full defencetalk.com [defencetalk.com] article that this GoogleAds blog entry seems to be summarizing, go here [defencetalk.com] . Lots more information. Found the link on Fark don'tcha know.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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