The future of commercial air travel is here, or will be in a few years. EADS, the European Aerospace giant, revealed its plans for a biofuel powered supersonic ‘rocket-plane’ that will take passengers from Paris to Tokyo (air distance of more than 12,000 miles or 19,500 km) in a mere 2.5 hours. That means it will fly at a hypersonic speed of 5000 km/hour (Sound travels at 1200 km/hour). The plane is, however, slated to be in operation only in 2050.
The Future: Fast and Not So Furious
The capacity of the Zero Emission Hypersonic Transportation (Zehst) will be about 50 to 100 people. It will use engines fueled by biofuel made from sea-weed to take-off and will switch over to its rocket engines at high altitudes. The rocket fuel will be (nearly) pure hydrogen burning in oxygen, providing more bang for the weighty buck, while contributing no pollution whatsoever. The only exhaust will be water vapour.
As EADS’s chief technical officer, Jean Botti, said,
You don’t pollute, you’re in the stratosphere.
Yes, you heard it right stratosphere. While most of today’s planes fly in the troposphere at about a height of 10 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, the Zehst will cruise at an altitude of 32 kilometers, or 20 miles.
Whether to whet up nostalgia or not, the Zehst design will mimic that of the Concorde, the iconic supersonic passenger jet plane, which was put out of commission on 26th November, 2003. Japan is in collaboration with EADS on this project, since it has already developed the rocket technology. The project is expected to be worth around $300 million.
The Zehst project was announced at the Le Bourget airport today (19th June), just a day before this year’s Paris International Air Show (from the 20th to 26th of June). The Concorde will be on display at the Bourget for the biannual Air Show. (If you are in Paris, the Air Show will open for the public on Friday, the 24th.)
A prototype of the Zehst should be built by 2020, EADS hopes. The plane will be in operation in 2050.
Clean and fast that’s the future for aerospace technology.