Recently, the Boston-based start-up, Spike Aerospace, successfully completed test flights of the SX-1.2—a subscale, subsonic, unmanned demonstrator for the company’s S-512 Quest Supersonic Jet. The test flights, seven in total, were used to validate aircraft aerodynamics and assess flight characteristics.
"The SX-1.2 test flights were conducted in a real-world situation, and provide significantly more data than wind tunnel tests done in an artificial environment," said Vik Kachoria, Spike Aerospace President and CEO, "We were able to test not only handling, but also a range of other considerations."
Throughout the series of test flights, engineers recorded telemetry and performance data while adjusting the SX-1.2 control surfaces, balance, and center of mass.
Spike Aerospace plans on having the 12- to 18-passenger S-512 flying by 2021, with delivery to customers in 2023. The aircraft, which has a range of 6200 nmi and a cruise speed of Mach 1.6, is yet another engineering foray into qualifying low-boom supersonic aircraft for flight over populated landmasses. The company claims that S-512 could shorten flight times between New York and London to three hours.
Like other low-boom supersonic designs currently in development, the S-512 has a modified delta wing and distinctively long nose (to prevent a significant bow shock from forming). Another interesting design feature is the planned cabin-length panoramic video walls in the interior of the aircraft.
The video walls, or “Multiplex Digital Cabin,” will replace conventional windows and display high-definition live-feed footage of the surrounding environment. With business clients in mind, Spike Aerospace also plans on allowing passengers to use the digital displays for presentations or personal entertainment. While the video walls present a novel passenger experience, they also contribute to enhanced fuselage strength and interior noise reduction (via the elimination of window holes).
The company has partnered with several engineering and research companies while developing the S-512, including Aernova, BRPH, Greenpoint, Quartus, and Siemens. While SX-1.2 qualifying flights will continue throughout November, Spike Aerospace has already begun constructing the SX-1.3 demonstrator.
While Spike Aerospace continues development of the S-512, several other major companies will keep working to develop and qualify their own supersonic business jets. Reno-based Aerion Corp., in partnership with Airbus, is currently hoping to launch its three-engine, 8- to 12-passenger Aerion AS2 as early as the first quarter of 2018.
Aerion is developing the AS2 for a Mach 1.4 cruise speed for overseas flights and for use in China—where there are currently no restrictions on sonic booms. However, the company stipulates that at high altitudes the sonic boom created by the AS2 travelling at Mach 1.2 would not reach the ground, potentially qualifying it for more applications and markets.
While HyperMach Aerospace’s SonicStar has been in development since project announcement at the 2011 Paris Air Show, the company has labeled 2017 as a “pivotal year” for developing a design framework and flying prototype. The company currently has full engine run tests scheduled for 2019, with introduction planned for 2028.
HyperMach plans to achieve speeds of Mach 4.4 with the SonicStar, approximately twice the speed of the Concorde. However, the enabling technologies that underpin the design of the SonicStar are still in theoretical stages themselves, including the SonicBlue S-MAGJET (or Supersonic-Magnetic Advanced Generation Jet Electric Turbine) powerplants and the sonic boom-reducing electromagnetic drag reduction technology.
One of the more relatively mature designs, the Boom Technology XB-1 “Baby Boom” is currently on track for a 2018 maiden flight. The Baby Boom, a third-scale demonstrator for a future 55-seat full-size final aircraft slated for flight in 2021, flew initial subsonic test flights earlier this year. It is currently slated for a maiden supersonic test flight next year. The Baby Boom is powered by three GE CJ610 turbojets, features a low-drag conventional compound delta wing, but lacks low-sonic boom or laminar supersonic flow technology utilized by competing designs, so flight may initially be limited to transoceanic flights.
With such competition and interest—especially in a heavily restricted regime as supersonic flight—the potential for a Concorde-replacement may soon be on the horizon. And just like the Concorde, supersonic flight may get here sooner than you might think.