Concept Ship Could Shuttle Passengers at Hypersonic Speeds by 2050
by Brandy Cross
The SpaceLiner (not the bike) is a space ship concept that utilizes hypersonic speeds to work as an on earth shuttle. The SpaceLiner could theoretically glide between Europe and Australia in just 90 minutes (a flight that normally takes 21-24 hours depending on the city of origin and city of destination). The shuttle would actually launch from the ground and break into space before gliding down to an easy landing at its destination.
Prototype & Project Created at the German Aerospace Center
Europe has long been a hotspot for innovation, and the German Aerospace Center is holding true to that creed with the SpaceLiner project. Director Martin Sippel talks enthusiastically about the project, outlining that they have yet to settle on the best shape for the ship, or even to secure enough funding for a full completion of the project. He suggests that enough progress will have been made in the next ten years to attract large scale private funding, which would allow the project to be completed and in use by 2050. The project is based on theFAST20XX (Future High-Altitude High-Speed Transport 20XX) project which was funded by the European Union.
How the Space Liner Works
The Space Liner space ship concept is actually a cross between the modern day plane and the space shuttles that actually fly to the moon or mars. Currently the prototype uses rocket launchers to thrust the ship up through the atmosphere and into hypersonic speeds at 24 times the speed of sound. According to previous scientific theories, that would actually be fast enough to go back in time, but this device is not being seen as a time portal, simply as a faster means of transport. The ship concept uses rocket launchers to reach speed, and then orbiters to carry the ship across the world. However, the rocket would never actually reach true space, only the earth’s upper atmosphere. Designers claim that they intend to work out a rocket launcher capsule that would be reusable, grabbing the device from the air shortly after it is dropped by the liner.
Will the Space Liner Ever be Used?
If the physical and practical considerations that are currently in the way of the space liner continue to hold, it will never be used as a viable form of transport. Currently scientists have been unable to configure a proper shape for the rocket that would allow passengers to actually survive the thirty minute trip between Europe and the United States and to most of us that is a very big deal. Elements from the sonic boom shock to the pure heat of traveling at hypersonic speeds could kill human passengers, and until those factors are met with super heat resistant metals and a shape more conductive to less shock, the Space Liner will not fly humans.
Other considerations include that the current costs for a 30 minute flight to Europe could cost several hundred thousand dollars, equivalent to a flight into space. Consumers aren’t usually willing to spend that much money on travel, not unless they could make several million by reaching their destination a few hours sooner.
But with new technology and constant new developments, the price of a space liner flight could be greatly reduced. By 2040, it might cost only a few thousand dollars to launch the flight, which would be far more in the lines of what people would be willing to pay for rapid commute. In that case, the only real barrier of the Space Liner is its limited size, which holds about 50 people. The size is due to necessity as a large vehicle would be unable to fly at such high speeds without requiring a great deal more powerful engines, or a great deal more research.
What do you think? Is the Space Liner worth researching? A thirty minute trans-continental flight would certainly be more economical for many people, but is it worth the cost or the risk?