London: A hypersonic SpaceLiner that could reach 24 times the speed of sound and transport passengers from London to Sydney in 90 minutes could be a reality by 2050.
Although the finished article is still a long way off, Martin Sippel, project coordinator for SpaceLiner at the German Aerospace Center believes the project could attract private funding within a decade, the Daily Mail reported.
The current concept includes a rocket booster stage for launch and a separate orbiter stage to carry up to 50 passengers halfway around the world without ever making it to space.
A journey between Europe and the US would be reduced to just over 60 minutes, providing passengers are happy to pay space travel prices, estimated to be in the region of several hundred thousand dollars per ticket.
Should it take off in both sense of the word, there is no reason why a fleet of SpaceLiners couldn`t make up to 15 flights a day, Sippel said.
"Maybe we can best characterise the SpaceLiner by saying it`s a kind of second-generation space shuttle , but with a completely different task," he told TechNewsDaily.
The SpaceLiner would take approximately eight minutes to climb to an altitude of some 50 miles, where it will reach the earth`s upper atmosphere before gliding back to Earth at hypersonic speeds of more than 15,000mph.
SpaceLiner engineers hope to use a liquid oxygen and hydrogen rocket fuel, leaving water vapour as waste.
Engineers predict that advances in materials could be combined with new cooling technologies and heat shielding to safeguard the SpaceLiner`s structures against the intense heat of hypersonic flight.
The Spaceliner would likely require an isolated launch site and careful route planning to keep sonic booms from negatively affecting residential areas.
The empty rocket stage from SpaceLiner would return to Earth after launch so that it could be reused.
The plan would be for an aircraft to fly out and latch on to the rocket stage before towing it towards an airfield where it could glide in to land.