It is no secret that everything related to hypersonic flights is primarily of interest to the military. At the same time, the civilian use of hypersound will lead to rapid intercontinental travel, as well as suborbital and space tourism. For such purposes, China is developing a hypersonic suborbital space plane, the project of which is for the first time supported not by the military, but by the civil Science Foundation of China.
Chinese sources reportthat on September 7, the National Natural Science Foundation of China approved an undisclosed amount of funding for a suborbital transport project to deploy a hypersonic transport system. The project participants undertake to create a reusable passenger suborbital aircraft for 10 passengers by 2035. By 2045, an aircraft for 100 passengers will be presented. In each case, we are talking about flights at speeds above Mach 5. Passengers or cargo can be delivered anywhere in the world in about one hour.
A similar project by SpaceX involves the delivery of passengers from one point on Earth to another using reusable Starship rockets. The project should be implemented by 2028, although given the regular “breakfasts” of the owner of the company, Elon Musk, this could happen much later, if at all.
In the case of the Chinese project, passengers will be delivered from airports, not from spaceports. The Chinese hypersonic transport will be lifted by a reusable carrier aircraft (or rocket boosters) to a height of about 100 km, after which the transport will separate and, at an altitude of 120 km, switch to hypersonic speed. The landing of the space plane will also be carried out at the airfield.
To implement such a revolutionary project requires a lot of parallel development and work. Such work is already underway. For example, at the end of August, China for the first time conducted a test launch of a self-developed suborbital return space rocket, and even earlier in August launched a reusable test spacecraft. There are also advances with hypersound. In July, Chinese scientists reported the successful test flight of a hypersonic transport missile that combined rocket and breathable hypersonic engines.
In conclusion, we note that when promoting hypersound, China relies on “breathing” engines, which do not need an oxygen supply on board to operate. The rocket captures the oxygen necessary for the combustion reaction from the surrounding atmosphere during the flight, which leaves more room for cargo and passengers. The SpaceX rocket cannot boast of such a thing. She will carry all the oxygen in her tanks.
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