China will be unveiling a superfast jet that will have a journey time of 2 hours between New York and Shanghai. China has faced heavy demand for air travel and is seeing a construction boom with many new airports being built. According to CNN, the more popular destinations at the moment are in the Asia Pacific region as the flight time is less. However, the development of superfast air travel is likely to change that.

Beijing based Space Transportation (also known as Lingkong Tianxing in China) is aiming to make superfast travel a possibility with the development of a plane than can travel at one mile per second, over twice the speed of Concorde. The plane however has only 12 seats and, therefore, is unlikely to be an aircraft carrier for mass transportation for some time.

China's supersonic superfast plane design
China’s superfast plane will fly from New York to Shanghai in 2 hours ©: CNN

 

In addition, even the Concorde is not flying at the moment due to low demand. There is also tragedy attached to the Concorde; passenger numbers fell dramatically when Air France’s Concorde crashed minutes after take-off from Paris in July 2000 killing all 109 people onboard and 4 on the ground. The superfast jet from China will be launched as a full-scale global plane by 2030. Hopefully, this should give them enough time to ensure that there are no safety issues.

Design

Space Transportation released an animated publicity video showing passengers) board a plane that nestles underneath an aerodynamic delta-shaped structure, flanked by two titanic booster rockets…The superfast jet launches vertically into the sky (as opposed to the horizontal method used by most other planes; it has vertical take-off and landing). After reaching cruise altitude (the altitude at which it would fly to its destination), the plane separates from its boosters and then skims the edge of space at 7,000 kilometres (4,350 miles) per hour.

Once it reaches its destination it will then land vertically at the destination with the aid of a tripod-type undercarriage. Despite the fact that the plane skims the edge of space, no space suit or helmet is required. The only deterrent to travel may be the hair raising vertical take-off and landing. The first test flight of this suborbital plane is due to take place in 2025 before its fully ready in 2030. The fact that the plane will fly at such high speed means that it may be using more fuel. This may have environmental implications.

However, despite this, the project is backed by significant players in the Chinese investment landscape. Last August, the undertaking was able to generate over 300 million yuan (about 47 million US dollars) in initial financing. This funding was provided by a Shanghai-based industrial investment fund led by Matrix Partners China and the state-owned Shanghai Guosheng Group.

Competition

The initiative, if realized, will allow China to realise its ambitions to straddle the potentially lucrative niche of hypersonic superfast point-to-point flight for business travellers, In addition, due to the flight’s potential close proximity to space, it also provides a gateway into the lucrative space tourism market.

Virgin's Space Plane
China faces stiff competition in the superfast/ hypersonic space race ©: CNN

China’s ambitions in space are well known and it faces stiff competition from the US. In the same way that it once used gunpowder loaded arrows (which were ignited when launched) to stave off Mongol invaders in the 13th century, its main competitors in the space war so to speak are the US and Russia.

China does however have a knack for keeping costs down thereby providing access to space to more customers. This will no doubt help China in developing the next generation of superfast planes perhaps with more seats and therefore a higher carrying capacity. We will have to wait to see if superfast planes become a reality and will be accessible to many people rather than a select few.

 

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