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Is Business Travel Rocketing into the Space Age?

You’re in London and in three hours time, you need to be in Sydney, Australia for an important business meeting.

This is not the result of a disastrous scheduling mix-up - it’s the kind of business travel that would be possible with the arrival of hypersonic business travel.

That’s the ability to travel around the globe at Mach 5 - five times the speed of sound, around 3,000 miles per hour.

It would reduce the travel time from the UK to Australia from 23 hours to around 90 minutes. Flights from London to New York would take around one hour.

This is the ultimate goal for a number of development projects which are currently looking to turn space travel into an everyday reality for business users.

One of the teams is based at Institute of Space Systems in Germany. They are developing the idea of a rocket powered commercial jet called the SpaceLiner.

Seating 50 passengers, this uses a similar system to the Space Shuttle with the craft taking off vertically.

Booster rockets would take into the mesosphere at an altitude of 100,000 feet, where the flight would enter a more conventional ‘passenger mode’ - cruising at Mach 5.

Landing would be exactly the same as a conventional aircraft, allowing the SpaceLiner to be integrated along with all the existing airport infrastructure.

Lowering Costs

The real innovation comes in finding ways to make this form of travel cost effective. The German research team say the SpaceLiner’s rockets could be reused 100 times before needing replacement.

A similar scheme is also being developed by aerospace giant, Airbus, who have patented their own designs for a hypersonic jet.

Both systems propose using hydrogen and liquid oxygen as their fuel sources, producing no harmful emissions - only water vapour.

Both designs also look to tackle the problem of sonic booms, something which beset the last commercially viable hypersonic aircraft, Concorde.

These are the loud boom noises and vibrations caused by the plane breaking the sound barrier and which caused complaints and compensation claims from those living along the flight path.

The Airbus team say that advances and a greater understanding of aerodynamics allow their design to significantly reduce the sonic booms that are created.

While research and development continues, analysts say that it will be another 20 to 30 years before business travellers will have the option of subspace travel.

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