Biz Jet Disruption - What the Upstarts are Up to
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From the Captain:
Biz Jet Disruption - What are the upstarts, up to?
So 2021 is looking to be an epic year for both Supersonic and Hypersonic flight. After all, so much is to happen:
Boom Technologies: XB-1 Baby Boom prototype is scheduled to fly next year at Mach 2.2 and be powered by the GE J85. The ultimate goal is the Overture Airliner, which will fly 55 passengers over 4,500 nmi by 2029. Engine for the Overture has not be announced, but is likely to be a turbofan engine Virgin Galactic: Space Ship 2 will be carried below an aircraft called White Knight 2, which is powered by traditional turbofans engines up to an altitude of 9.5 miles (50,000 ft). Space Ship 2 is then dropped, the hybrid solid/liquid rocket engine ignites, and the vehicle is propelled to at least 70 miles (360,000 ft) above the earth. Space Ship 2 then hits an epygi and returns back to earth. The ultimate goal of the project is not necessarily spaceflight, but Hypersonic commercial flight. Lockheed/NASA X-59 QueSST: Will begin test flights in 2022. Designed more for testing quiet wing technology that reduces the sonic boom of aircraft to 75 decibels (which is just slightly louder than standing next a road with cars going 65 mph). The aircraft will be powered by a turbofan engine and currently has no planned passenger derivative.
Other honorable mentions include:
Spike S-512: Which will travel at 1,100 mph and carry 12-18 passengers. A new scramjet type of engine is being developed, but has not been revealed. Aerion AS2: A business jet that would travel at Mach 1.6 and carry 12 passengers and powered by a turbojet engine. Blue Origin: While the company is more like SpaceX in that it is focusing on spacecraft with vertical takeoff and landing; in May 2015 the company did achieve a flight that made it to 330,000 ft and and achieved a speed of 3,675 km/h. SpaceX - Starship: While not sure of its seriousness, a modified Falcon rocket as been proposed for transporting passengers across the world with a vertical takeoff and landing.
While the sonic boom has been a killer issue that seems about to be overcome; the fact is there has been no breakthrough engine technology being utilized, and that is concerning from an economic standpoint.
However, look beyond the tech to the market. Five year estimates for the business jet market are USD $36 Billion by 2026, according to Fortune Business Insights; add to this fact that Business/First Class travel on airlines represents 60-70% of all airline revenues, figuring that global airline revenues in 2019 were $868 BIllion, according to Statistica. We are then looking at an additional USD $521 - $607 billion market. So the payoff for creating a supersonic/hypersonic business jet is incredible! That is why 2021 will be such an epic year. We will all be watching in what could be a total tech disruption in aviation.
Perhaps the most interesting candidate is Virgin Galactic. In early 2021 the first suborbital space tourist flight will take place, and you can reserve your own space today for a $250,00. Great, but how big is the space tourism market.....I argue, who cares! This isn't about space tourism. Virgin Galactic is taking that $250k per seat and investing it back into the company to develop a Mach 3 business jet that is expected to fly in 2025. Totally brilliant!
- Mike Schlicting
Vintage Tech: Virgin Galactic circa 1959
If you think the idea of Virgin Galactic or Boom is new, you would be sadly mistaken. For decades the dream of passenger spaceflight and supersonic aircraft have been with America.
In fact, the covers of Popular Mechanics have been adorned with such aircraft for decades with dreams of transcontinental flights of under 2 hours.
The technology of the B-70 did go on to spawn supersonic bombers such as the B-1B, and B-2; and even the Concorde. However, the idea of Hypersonic passenger flight still remains illusive.