Technology

Spike Aerospace is Reviving the Dream of Supersonic Travel

September 3, 2015 | Reece Alvarez

The Spike
Photo credit: Spike Aerospace

The recently updated design for the Spike S-512, a conceptual supersonic jet said to be capable of cruising speeds of Mach 1.6 and able to jet passengers to international destinations in roughly half the time it currently takes.

An American company is promising to fly luxury passengers from London to New York in a little more than three hours with their recently updated supersonic jet — the Spike S-512.

“Flying supersonic is clearly the future of aviation,” said Spike CEO & President Vik Kachoria. “It makes the world smaller and more accessible.”

Flying 450 mph faster than any other civilian jet, the company says the the Spike S-512 will reach international destinations in half the time by cruising at a smooth supersonic Mach 1.6 (1100 mph/1770 km) — breaking the sound barrier and cutting an average flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo to six hours instead of eleven.

 

Design upgrades

The original design concept for the Spike S-512 was announced in 2013 with the expectation that the first prototype would be released in five to seven years and possibly as soon as December 2018.

According to Spike, the most noticeable change to the aircraft design over the last 18 months is that the wings are now a modified delta wing, meaning the triangular, swept-back shape of the jet’s wings.

According to Senior Engineer Dr. Anutosh Moitra, “The new delta wing of the S-512 delivers high aerodynamic efficiency and improved flight performance in both low-speed flight and supersonic cruise. The highly swept leading-edge reduces wave drag and consequently reduces fuel burn and increases range.”

The tail was also modified to reduce drag and improve aircraft control in supersonic conditions — giving the jet its hyper streamlined look.

“Improved stability characteristics of the new S-512 design allowed us to eliminate the horizontal tail resulting in further reduction of drag and weight,” Dr. Moitra said.

This sketch provided by Spike Aerospace shows the evolution of the design of the Spike S-512’s tail. (Credit: Spike Aerospace)

 

Not the first

Spike is not the only company to dream of bringing back supersonic commercial flight since the abandonment of the Concorde jets in 2003.

From 1976 to 2003 Concordes flew international commercial flights of up to 128 passengers at a cruising speed of Mach 2.04 (~1,354 mph or 2,179 km/h) until 2003, when a host of issues from economic feasibility to environmental and public safety concerns grounded the industry.

The downfall of the concorde is partially attributed to the loss in public confidence following the crash of Air France Flight 4590 in 2000. The crash in France killed 113 people including the flight’s passengers, crew and four people on the ground. This was the only fatal Concorde accident during its 27-year operational history and was attributed to external causes. (Credit: Pixabay)

 

Whether supersonic flights will return on a large commercial scale will remain to be seen as the vision for many of these future jets relies on low passenger counts and sky high prices.

 

Flying in style

The price tag on the Spike S-512 is estimated at $60 to $80 million while a competing design from Aerion Corporation is predicted to be in the range of $120 million.

Both jets carry only a few people; the Spike S-512 is currently designed to carry up to 18 passengers while Aerion’s is designed for up to 12 passengers.

Just one look at the interior of the Spike S-512 and it’s easy to see the type of client the jet is intended for.

Spike claims its jet will have the first windowless interior cabin lined with a thin display screen embedded into the wall. According to the company, cameras surrounding the entire aircraft will construct panoramic views displayed on the cabin screens. Passengers will be able to dim the screens to catch some sleep or change it to one of the many scenic images stored in the system.

To meet the needs of business clients the full-length interior display can also be used for presentations in addition to the jaw-dropping scenic views. (Credit: Spike Aerospace)

 

“Fuselage walls are complex structures made even more complicated by the additional structures needed to support cabin windows. Eliminating the windows allow us to simplify the fuselage design, reduce the parts count and lower manufacturing costs. But, it also results in a smoother exterior skin which reduces the aircraft's drag resulting in increased fuel efficiency,” Kachoria said.

Wall-length scenic displays are not the only amenity the jet will offer. The company says jet-setters will fly in comfort and style with soft leather seating, reduced cabin noise, higher oxygen levels and high-speed wireless Internet access.

 

Evolution of air transport

“For any competitive global business, cutting flight times in half will have significant value. But for people who have busy global lives and want to spend time with the people they love, the Spike S-512 Supersonic Jet will be a necessity.” Kachoria said.

According to Spike’s website, the company sees the revived dream of supersonic flight not only as the next step for the business class but, in time, a benefit to the entire world as well.

“In 20-30 years, supersonic flight will be available on large commercial airlines enabling more people to travel and visit their friends and families around the globe,” according to a statement on the company’s website.

“Pan Am’s first commercial flight across the Atlantic was in 1939. Since then, global face-to-face commerce can be done in a few hours of flight instead of weeks of sailing. In addition to an increase in trade, this has led to an improved standard of living and economic fortunes for the entire world. Similarly, even faster air travel will make even more of the world easier to reach. This, we expect, will result in increased direct foreign investment, some of which will be in key infrastructure projects — resulting in improvements in health, education and welfare.”

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