Nasa plane might halve the length of flights by finally overcoming sonic boom

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Nasa might be famous for sending rockets up to space quickly. But it could be making your next holiday come more quickly, too.

The space agency is working on a new plane, dubbed Concorde 2 by some people, that could solve the problems of super-sonic flight and vastly increase the speed of journeys abroad.

If successful, the plane would be able to fly between New York and London in just three hours. And it would halve the time spent flying other journeys, since it could be used more broadly.

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Until now, the problem with such planes has been the sonic boom, made famous by the original Concorde. That happens when a plane reaches supersonic speeds.

It is a thunderous noise that upsets people on the ground – disturbing livestock and even causing physical problems to materials and houses underneath. It was irritation with that effect that led Congress to ban such planes from being used over US land, a decision that in turn was partly responsible for Concorde failing to be commercially viable and getting mothballed.

The space agency has successfully tried out the technology in wind tunnels, and now believes that it could be put to commercial use. It now wants to test that out by having commercial companies build a version of the plane that could be put to use.

That plane will fly as high as 55,000 feet – far higher than normal planes – and make a sound of only 60 decibels. That’s far less than the 90 decibels thrown out by Concorde, and is roughly in line with a car on the motorway or a busy restaurant.

“Now you’re getting down to that level where, as far as approval from the general public, it would probably be something that’s acceptable,” said Peter Coen, project manager for NASA’s commercial supersonic research team, .

If that allows the team to get approval, it hopes to have full-sized versions of the planes to try out by 2022.

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