SpaceLiner is a hypersonic capable of reaching 24 times the speed of sound and by 2050 could transport passengers from London to Sydney in just 90 minutes.
Although the finished article is still a long way off, Martin Sippel, project coordinator for SpaceLiner at the German Aerospace Center believes the project could attract private funding within a decade.
The current concept includes a rocket booster stage for launch and a separate orbiter stage to carry up to 50 passengers halfway around the world without ever making it to space.
A journey between Europe and the U.S. would be reduced to just over 60 minutes, providing passengers are happy to pay space travel prices, estimated to be in the region of several hundred thousand dollars per ticket.
Should it take off in both sense of the word, there is no reason why a fleet of SpaceLiners couldn’t make up to 15 flights a day, believes Martin Sippel.
“Maybe we can best characterize the SpaceLiner by saying it’s a kind of second-generation space shuttle, but with a completely different task,” Martin Sippel told TechNewsDaily.
The SpaceLiner would take approximately 8 minutes to climb to an altitude of some 50 miles where it reach the earth’s upper atmosphere before gliding back to Earth at hypersonic speeds of more than 15,000mph.
SpaceLiner engineers hope to use a liquid oxygen and hydrogen rocket fuel, leaving water vapor as waste.
Engineers predict that advances in materials could be combined with new cooling technologies and heat shielding to safeguard the SpaceLiner’s structures against the intense heat of hypersonic flight.
The SpaceLiner would likely require an isolated launch site and careful route planning to keep sonic booms from negatively affecting residential areas.
The empty rocket stage from SpaceLiner would return to Earth after launch so that it could be reused.
The plan would be for an aircraft to fly out and latch on to the rocket stage before towing it towards an airfield where it could glide in to land.
SpaceLiner’s eventually design could well be influenced by upcoming, EU-funded study FAST20XX (Future High-Altitude High-Speed Transport 20xx).
A close eye will also be on the success or failure of space ventures by the likes of Virgin Galactic. Should space travel capture the interest of travelers, Martin Sippel is confident a fleet of SpaceLiners could make up to 15 flights a day.