EU €7m hypersonic research plan considers UK-designed Mach 5 aircraft to fly Brussels to Sydney in 2h

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By Rob Coppinger in London

European hypersonic civil transport project heats up as three concepts undergo trials

An aircraft capable of flying five times the speed of sound and reaching Sydney in between two and four hours from Brussels is the leading design in a €7 million European research project to find a hypersonic civilian airliner replacement to the supersonic Concorde. 

A Mach 5 civil transport aircraft designed by a UK team is leading a pack of three concepts undergoing preliminary studies for the three-year, €7 million ($9 million) European hypersonic research project, Long Term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies (LAPCAT).

With €4 million from the European Commission and the rest from industry, LAPCAT aims to develop a vehicle capable of travelling from Europe to Australia in 2-4h.

lapcat a2 concept w445

Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engine says its A2 (a Flight artist's impression of which is pictured above), meets take-off noise restrictions and is powered by hydrogen-fuelled turbine-based combine cycle (TBCC) engines.

The other two concepts are an EADS Mach 8 vehicle with rocket-based combined cycle propulsion and German aerospace research centre DLR’s kerosene-fuelled, TBCC-powered Mach 4 craft.

LAPCAT is being co-ordinated by the European Space Agency for the EC. “Results so far show [the Mach 5 vehicle from Reaction Engines] can avoid later [technology] pitfalls and could travel from Brussels to Sydney,” says ESA’s LAPCAT project co-ordinator Johan Steelant. Criteria for vehicle evaluation include safety, ability to reach diversion airports, adaptability to different sonic boom restrictions and technological maturation. Steelant cites the heat exchangers in Reaction Engine’s Scimitar TBCC engine as being more advanced in their development.

Later this month tests of an experimental engine intake will start at a DLR windtunnel facility. These should be followed by nozzle tests in July and eventually combustion chamber and combined intake, chamber and nozzle testing.