A decade went by after world’s first commercial supersonic jets like Tupolev Tu-144 and then Concorde took off. Now aviation companies like Boom technology, are planning their grand comeback with successor, Overture by 2021. So what is the history of supersonic travel and when can we expect to experience travel faster than sound again?
Crux of the Matter
About Supersonic Concorde 1.0
Supersonic jets can travel faster than the speed of sound (1km in 2.9s) and were initially built for military and research purposes. The Concorde was one of the first supersonic passenger-carrying commercial airplanes, also known as the supersonic transport (SST).
A joint effort of aircraft manufacturers from Great Britain and France, the revolutionary jet made its first transatlantic crossing on September 26, 1973, and inaugurated it’s first passenger service on January 21, 1976.
What Was So Impressive About It?
It had a maximum speed that was 2x the speed of sound, with the seating for 92 to 128 passengers. The built-up was equipped with four Rolls-Royce afterburner engines, that are used on fighter jets, each of which generated 38,000 pounds of thrust.
Revamped brake systems allowed the plane to land smoothly, even while being at a high speed. Then the plane’s triangular delta wings, allowed it to navigate at different angles while climbing up to 278 degrees in the air. That’s why it was coated in a highly-reflective white paint that could radiate heat.
Why Was The Project Scrapped Off?
The supersonic aircraft’s noise and operating expense limited its plans for a long term service. The original programme cost of £70 million met huge delays, with it eventually costing approx. £1.3 billion.
Then a tragedy happened on July 25, 2000.
A Concorde en route from Paris to New York City suffered engine failure after takeoff and burst into flames. All 109 persons died on board and human casualty happened on the ground as well.
If we can fly twice as fast, the world becomes twice as small, turning far off lands into familiar neighbours.Mission Statement, Boom Technology
Boom Technology has finally announced about the full-fledged testing of Concorde’s successor, Overture within this year. A 1:3 scale prototype called XB-1 will be rolled out on October 7, with test flights beginning in 2021. They have already completed landing gear tests. The ambitious company has raised $141mn to build the supersonic jet 2.0, using cutting edge technology.
If Successful, Then What?
If the XB-1 is a success, then the next target would be the launch of Boom Overture which would be a Mach 2.2 jet. ( 2.2x speed of sound i.e 2716.56 kmph) With 55-passenger seating having 500 viable routes, it is proposed to be introduced in 2025–2027. Reports suggest that Richard Branson and Japan Airlines have already made their respective investments, pre-ordering 30 aircrafts.
Hypersonic Military Arsenal?
China already paraded launchers last year, for land-attack DF-17 and anti-ship DF-100 hypersonic missiles.
Meanwhile, Russia is busy deploying nuclear-capable hypersonic Kinzhal air-launched missiles along with Avangard glide vehicles released by RS-28 intercontinental-range missiles.
As a counter move, Pentagon has fast-tracked its own hypersonic development in response: Between 2023 and 2028, it plans to deploy many hypersonic weapons with the Air Force, Army and Navy. Additionally, it will fulfil its “Prompt Global Strike” capability, that can wipe out critical adversary strategic weapons and systems anywhere on the planet within hours.
- A sonic boom is the sound associated with the shock waves created whenever an object travels through the air faster than the speed of sound. Sonic booms generate enormous amounts of sound energy, sounding similar to an explosion or a thunderclap to the human ear.
- Ernst Mach was an Austrian physicist and philosopher, noted for his contributions to physics such as the study of shock waves. The ratio of one’s speed to that of sound is named the Mach number in his honor.
- The sound barrier or sonic barrier is the sudden increase in aerodynamic drag and other undesirable effects experienced by an aircraft or other object when it approaches the speed of sound. When aircraft first began to be able to reach close to the speed of sound, these effects were seen as constituting a barrier making faster speeds very difficult or impossible.