Global airplane manufacturer EADS, famous for its Airbus craft, has partnered with the French aerospace laboratory ONERA to study the feasibility of a high-speed concept plane that could travel at Mach 4 (over 3,000 miles per hour) and almost 32 km high, all while keeping environmental impact low.
Calling the project the Zero Emission High Supersonic Transpot (ZEHST), the goal of the program is to create an aircraft that can go from Tokyo, Japan to Paris, France in only two and a half hours, with C02 emissions reduced by 75% compared to 2000 levels under goals set by The European Commission.
EADS and ONERA hope to have a demonstration of how the concept airplane would work by 2020, but are quick to point out that an actual prototype would not be ready until 2040. Still, the organizations are targeting the year 2050 for the plane to be an operational, standard aircraft.
So far, however, the groups have put forth just a basic idea for how the ZEHST would work. To start, the plane would take off using two turbojet engineers powered by biofuel to reach a sufficient speed and altitude, then switch to liquid hydrogen boosters before finally cruising at Mach 4 using a pair or air-breathing, hydrogen-fueled ramjets. Technological limitations aside, the plane would also have to limit g-forces to make the journey pleasant for passengers. We might reserve our seat in advance, but our old bones might not be up for such a trip forty years from now.