Meet SABRE, fueled by a combination of oxygen and hydrogen, this hypersonic jet can travel at Mach 5.4 – or 4,000 mph.
That’s five times the speed of sound. In plain English, it means it can take you from London to New York City in an hour or so.
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Reaction Engines, a British aerospace company based out of Oxford, is developing the jet for commercial use.
It’s a tall order, but it’s a potential game changer because the plane would be greener and faster than anything else out there.
At that speed, nearly every route you can think of could be covered in an hour or less, and you could virtually fly anywhere in the world in less than three hours.
Abu Dhabi to Boston? That’s about an hour and a half.
Miami to Sydney, Australia? Less than three hours.
How does the hypersonic jet work?
Engine-wise, the SABRE uses incoming air (ie, full of oxygen) combined with tiny tubes of cooled helium.
Reaction Engines’ director Shaun Driscoll says they need to prioritize the engine cooling system above anything else.
“Our pre-cooler takes air that arrives at 1,000 degrees centigrade and cools it down to zero in one-twentieth of a second,” Driscoll said.
It’s an ambitious plan and the deadlines sound incredibly optimistic.
The company said it wants to begin testing a small-scale version of the jet as early as 2025 and the final product, a commercial jet designed to accommodate passengers, should be ready by 2030.
There’s more good news because the British government, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and even Boeing are on board, with a combined investment of £240 million – or $300 million.
Supersonic vs Hypersonic
The conversation about commercial aircraft flying supersonic sort of died away after the ‘demise’ of the Concorde.
The Franco-British airliner could take you from the UK to the East Coast of the US in just over three hours at Mach 2 (2,167 km/h).
However, the Concorde was famously a bit too… accident-prone and that’s the reason why the project was abandoned.
Hypersonic flying would change the way we travel, allowing us to fly ‘across the pond’ in the same time it takes to watch an episode of your favorite TV show.
So… fingers crossed.