New York to London in an hour: Hypersonic WaveRider aircraft to be tested Tuesday

hypersonic waverider aircraft to be tested tuesdayConcorde could do it in around three hours, while today’s passenger planes take around seven. However, if a test of the unmanned X-51A WaveRider aircraft goes without a hitch on Tuesday, we could one day see flights between New York and London taking as little as an hour.

Taking off from Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert, the plan is to carry WaveRider – a hypersonic aircraft developed by the US Air Force, Boeing and engine maker Pratt and Whitney, and financed by NASA and the Pentagon – on the wing of a B-52 plane over the Pacific Ocean to a height of 50,000 feet. It’ll then detach from the B-52 and embark on a five-minute flight at speeds of up to 4,500 mph.

WaveRider has been tested before, though its most recent flight, in June last year, ended in failure when the engine was forced to shutdown due to an airflow problem.

If all goes to plan this time, however, the hypersonic aircraft will end its flight by breaking up and landing in the Pacific after around five minutes of flight, which may seem like a funny way to end a “successful” flight but in this case, it’s the length of the flight that’s the key factor.

hypersonic waverider aircraft to be tested tuesday launch

Engineers working on WaveRider say the aircraft’s technology could be used in next-generation space aircraft, military aircraft, missiles and yes, passenger planes too.

Dora Musielak, a high-speed propulsion expert based at the University of Texas, told the LA Times WaveRider could one day lead to hypersonic passenger plane flights.

“It is always a dream to see an airplane fly faster,” she said. “Once the military proves out the concept, hypersonic transport becomes a step closer to reality.”

No doubt 60-minute flights between the US and Europe are a long way off, but should Tuesday’s WaveRider test prove a success, we could find ourselves one step closer to a much smaller world. We shudder to think how much a ticket will cost, though.

Robert A. Mercier, deputy for technology in the high-speed systems division at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio, said that achieving sustained hypersonic flight would be like “going from propeller-driven aircraft to jet aircraft.”

He added, “Since the Wright brothers, we have examined how to make aircraft better and faster. Hypersonic flight is one of those areas that is a potential frontier for aeronautics. I believe we’re standing in the door waiting to go into that arena.”

Emerging Tech

Light-swallowing room promises Call of Duty fans the blackest of ops

What's it like to be in a room fully painted with the world's darkest material, Vantablack? The makers of one of the year's top video games teamed up with Vantablack scientists to find out.
Gaming

The best video games to gift this holiday season, from ‘Spider-Man’ to ‘Hitman 2’

The holidays are quickly approaching and you might be looking for ideas on what to get your favorite gamer. Here are the best games you can buy for your gaming loved ones this holiday season.
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games out right now

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Product Review

LG's new V40 has 5 cameras, but ThinQ twice before you buy

The LG V40 ThinQ has five cameras -- three on the back and two on the front. This makes it one of the most versatile camera phones LG has released to date, and it’s creatively fun to use. Read on for more in-depth analysis.
Music

Jam out in style with the 25 best playlists on Spotify

Music is the world's most potent drug, and the best playlists on Spotify will make you catch feelings. We've scoured the service for its top collections, and brought them together in one place -- for you.
Wearables

Skydio’s self-flying drone now has an Apple Watch app for flight prep

Skydio's clever R1 autonomous drone now has its own Apple Watch app, making flight preparations simpler than ever. The $2,000 flying machine is now also selling at its first retail outlet — Apple Stores in North America.
Emerging Tech

Scientists created a condom that self-lubricates during sex. You’re welcome

Researchers from Boston University have invented a special coating for condoms which make them respond to bodily fluids by becoming more slippery. Here's how their new breakthrough works.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

You’re so vein: Palm-based biometric system could help confirm your identity

Move over, Face ID! The next biometric security systems could rely on analyzing the unique vein patterns in your palm print. Here are some of the ways the technology could prove useful.
Emerging Tech

For only $4,950, you can get jetpack lessons from the world’s only instructor

Have you ever dreamed of flying using a jetpack? JetPack Aviation founder -- and the world's only qualified jetpack teacher -- David Mayman is now offering a day of flight instruction.
Emerging Tech

Biologists have found a hormone that could make space farming possible

Researchers have shown how space farming may be possible. By encouraging plants to excrete a certain hormone, they’ve demonstrated that crops can thrive despite challenging conditions, such as low-nutrient soil and microgravity.
Emerging Tech

Keep your holiday gift list high tech and under budget with these gadgets

Modern technology doesn't always come cheap, but there plenty of premium devices that don't carry a premium price. Whether you're looking for a streaming device or a means of capturing photos from above, our list of the best tech under $50…
Emerging Tech

When tech goes wrong: Banksy’s shredder was meant to totally destroy his artwork

Banksy's recent auction stunt was meant to totally destroy one of his most famous pieces of work, but a fault with the shredder has left the buyer with something almost certainly worth far more than the $1 million she bid for it.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.