With current technology, the shortest journey from Europe to Sydney is around 30 hours. That's more than an entire day devoted to traveling. However, German space agency DLR has added their own solution to our slow travel problem: the SpaceLiner.
This yet-to-be-developed vehicle would zip over the globe faster than the speed of sound, achieving this feat by flying higher than the stratosphere. Packed with rocket engine technology, the SpaceLiner would travel from Europe to Australia in just 90 minutes. You could realistically pop over to Grandma's for lunch and be back home for dinner.
The SpaceLiner is designed to be a reusable vehicle that seats 50 people. There are two main stages to this flight concept: a thrilling vertical take-off followed by a cruising altitude 80 kilometers (50 miles) above the Earth's surface.
It will be powered by a whopping 11 liquid rocket engines, according to current plans. Nine of these will be devoted to boosting the SpaceLiner into the atmosphere. Martin Sippel, the project manager for the SpaceLiner, claims in the company's informative video that it will be able to accelerate to 25 times the speed of sound in 10 minutes. The video goes on to explain how the engines work: They will be powered by liquid oxygen and hydrogen, with the only waste product being water.
It also has an interesting safety feature: The passenger segment of the craft is able to separate from the rest of the vehicle and return safely to Earth in the case of an emergency, although it's unclear how this will be achieved. Furthermore, it is currently unknown how the SpaceLiner will protect passengers from the scorching heat of hypersonic travel.
This SpaceLiner is Germany's answer to the Concorde 2.0., which the company Airbus announced earlier this year. However, neither will be hitting the skies for commercial flights for at least 30 years. Interestingly, the SpaceLiner's project is planned to seat around 50 passengers whereas Concorde 2.0. only seats 20. Both are designed to be capable of exceptionally fast hypersonic travel.
One of the main setbacks for these sorts of projects is simply the cost of space travel. The number of rockets and engines made each year is very low, which makes them expensive. However, an increase in launches per year would increase the amount of production and ultimately drive down the cost.
Sippel is optimistic that DLR's SpaceLiner is just what's needed to kickstart this process. He said to Aviation Week: "We could increase hundredfold the number of launches and, as it is a reusable vehicle designed for between 150 and 300 flights, you have serial production of engines. If you have 11 engines per vehicle then you would build 2,000 engines per year or so. That's a huge production run, and that was the motivation."
To learn more about the company's testing plans and current stage of design, watch this video from DLR.