Fast20XX research project – ideas for travelling at hypersonic speed

11 December 2012

The vision is enticing – board in Europe, sit back, and disembark 90 minutes later on the other side of the world, in Australia. But before the SpaceLiner, which is being developed by the Institute of Space Systems at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), can fly a route like this for the first time, new technologies still have to be tested and basic requirements defined. Scientists from Germany, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Sweden have been carrying out research for the Fast20XX (Future high-Altitude high-Speed Transport) project, which is supported by the EU, for three years. The results of the project, which has now been concluded, will influence the future design of the DLR SpaceLiner and the Aerospace Innovation GmbH ALPHA aircraft.

Flying like a space shuttle

The concept already exists; the DLR SpaceLiner is intended to stand upright like a space shuttle before launch and take off on its journey using rocket engines. After the initial burn, the reusable booster stage will separate from the orbiter, in which there will be a capsule with a capacity of 50 passengers. The glide phase will start eight minutes later, at 20 times the speed of sound. The landing, around 80 minutes later, will take place on a normal runway like a conventional aircraft. It is a project for which there are no existing examples: “We are having to define the dimensions ourselves and use computer models of the SpaceLiner to feel our way,” says DLR project coordinator Martin Sippel. “The SpaceLiner is a challenge in terms of both technology and operations.” So it is that the 17 partners in the Fast20XX research project have not been designing an aircraft, but rather investigating important interdisciplinary aspects for an aircraft capable of air and space travel. Multiple DLR institutes have been involved in the project; besides the Institute of Space Systems, the Institute of Aerospace Medicine, the Institute of Structures and Design and the Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology have also contributed digital and experimental results.

Read more: DLR Portal – News – Fast20XX research project – ideas for travelling at hypersonic speed.

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