14 October 2005
14 October 2005
Japan conducted a successful test flight of a supersonic jet in the Australian outback on Monday, taking a step closer to its goal of developing a successor to the Concorde.
Japanese engineers tested a small, unmanned model of a supersonic jetliner in the Australian outback on Monday where the 38-foot model reached a speed of Mach 2 - about 1,500 mph.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), who were pleased with the testing, launched the prototype supersonic jet on the back of a rocket from the remote Woomera rocket range in the South Australian desert, completing a 15-minute flight. The jet climbed to about 20 km (12 miles) above the earth on the back of the rocket and then detached. It reached around twice the speed of sound and glided back to earth using parachutes.
"We were able to conduct a test flight and to gather data as planned. We think we have marked a major step in the development of (supersonic flight) technology," said Kimio Sakata, executive director of JAXA. "We are going to conduct the (data) analysis, but currently we think this flight was a success.", he added.
JAXA hopes that its research will eventually lead to the development of a commercially viable supersonic jet after clearing technological hurdles such as improving fuel efficiency and reducing noise levels.
Despite the successful test flight, JAXA suggested that they will not immediately embark on joint international development, as much more work was needed first.
Previous tests have been deemed a a failure, such as the one in 2002, where the unmanned prototype dived to earth and exploded in the Australian desert.
"The last few years were very unfortunate.. mishaps and misfortune, but this year all these succession of recoveries actually were witnessed and that means we the agency actually can be very proud that we could prove that we can recover," he said.
Japanese developers hope that a new supersonic jet could some day make the trip from Tokyo to New York in just under six hours - less than half the current time.
The success of the testing mission will bolster the agreement made in June this year between French and Japanese companies who agreed earlier to split an annual research budget of about $1.84 million over the next three years to develop the new jet, which according to JAXA, could become commercially available in 15 years.