NASA has recently announced that it will be spending over $6 million on research meant to look into cheap, eco-friendly supersonic travel. The administration hopes the research will allow production of an airplane sort of like the Concorde, but much less damaging to the environment. NASA has stated that if the research goes well, we should see supersonic commercial planes by 2030, with business-size supersonic jets coming in as early as 2025.
Research has a number of goals in mind.
There were many problems that plagued the last supersonic commercial jet, the Concorde, which had its last flight in November, 2003. One of them was the fact that they were extremely noisy machines, especially when heard from the ground near their flight paths. That’s why part of the upcoming research will be dealing with new ways of making a much quieter plane, including the reduction of sonic boom sounds. NASA claims to have already had success with past sonic boom reduction research.
One important goal is keeping the new plane environmentally friendly.
A more alarming problem with the Concorde was its air pollution. Since it flew higher and burned more fuel (though for a shorter period of time) than other aircraft, the Concorde polluted the upper parts of the atmosphere and threatened the ozone layer more than a typical commercial jet. So, predictably, a lot of the research money is going towards the goal of making this Concorde successor greener.
New jet will need to be cheaper in order to be viable.
The commercial jet that will be spawned from this project will likely have to cost less than the Concorde did. The Concorde’s flights, though more expensive than regular commercial flights, were still costing more money than Air France could make from them. The Concorde was essentially kept going more or less as a source of national pride for France. This will not be an option for the upcoming supersonic commercial jet, as it will need to be economically viable. Hopefully, all goes according to plan, and we will see a brighter future in commercial flying. Much faster flights with as little environmental impact as possible is something we can all look forward to.