More promising news for anyone who missed out on Corcorde and dreams of one day boarding a commercial supersonic flight.
NASA is the latest powerhouse to put its weight behind the development of technology that would make supersonic aviation a reality for the masses; the organisation has just announced that it will provide $2.3 million (£1.5 million) in funding for research into this developing industry. Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California are among the benefactors of the endowment, and the studies will investigate how to make supersonic travel quieter and greener.
Though NASA’s investment seems negligible when considered against the cost of technology needed to launch supersonic flight, it will fund years of research. Crucially some of the studies will investigate how to reduce the noise supersonic aircraft make - in some jurisdictions they are prohibited from flying over land due to the noise pollution they create. NASA's funding announcement also follows announcements by a number of companies stating that they plan to launch commercial supersonic flights in the near future.
Among them is Boston-based engineering firm Spike Aerospace which has unveiled plans to develop Spike S-512, a 12-18 seater commercial supersonic jet that would reach speeds of Mach 1.6 (1,100mph). That would reduce current flight times by about 50 per cent and would mean passengers could potentially land in London about three hours after leaving New York.
In order to realise those speeds, a number of technological innovations would be incorporated into the design of the new aircraft. Most noticeably, they would be built without windows in the fuselage (as a means of reducing weight and diminishing drag). Instead screens would curve around the cabin’s interior and could be used to display films, footage from outside captured via external cameras, video conferencing interfaces or other forms of imagery. Spike Aerospace expects the development of each jet to cost $80 million (about £52 million) and has claimed its supersonic aircraft could be operational as early as 2018.
Based in Nevada, competitor Aerion Corporation plans to debut a supersonic aircraft capable of similar speeds in the 2020s. That company is developing its planes in partnership with Airbus and last month made them available to order. They will feature windows and each one is currently priced at $120 million (£78 million).