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Featured Image Credit: Beijing Institute of Technology
Engineers in China are working on a super-fast hypersonic plane that will be able to fly passengers anywhere in the world within an hour.
A research team has tested a prototype of a hypersonic engine, which they hope will eventually power a 45-metre long plane capable of carrying up to 10 passengers at incredibly high speeds.
Professor Tan Huijun and colleagues at the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Jiangsu created the prototype engine and tested it in a wind tunnel, the South China Morning Post reports.
The proposed aircraft features delta wings and will travel at five times the speed of sound due to its design, which is actually based on a 1990s idea by Ming Han Tang, a former chief engineer of NASA’s hypersonic programme.
The Two Stage Vehicle (TSV) X-plane uses two separate engines with no moving parts on either side of the aircraft - this also allows the plane to switch to high-speed modes for acceleration.
The design, named the Boeing Manta X-47C, was eventually scrapped due to high costs as well as some technical problems.
In a paper published in the Journal of Propulsion Technology, the research team wrote of the abandoned Boeing design that ‘understanding its work mechanism can provide important guidance to hypersonic plane and engine development’.
The blueprints for the original design were declassified in 2011, leaving Huijun and his team free to create their own.
The engineers created a new aerodynamic model to how it would perform at high altitudes.
China is hoping to have a fleet of passenger planes by 2035 and wants to be able to expand them to carry 100 passengers by 2045.
The country isn't alone in the race to develop hypersonic aircraft.
Back in July, the US Air Force announced a $60 million contract with a company called Hermeus, instructing them to design and develop a hypersonic prototype in three years that could travel at Mach 5 speeds - around 3,800 mph - with just one engine.