Supersonic and hypersonic flight are expected to transform the aviation sector soon, but a big question is whether the U.S. will lead the way. If it intends to lead the way, then steady commitment and funding will be needed for the effort to be successful, according to congressional leaders and industry officials.
No improvements in hypersonic tech for the past 50 years
Former U.S. Air Force Major General Curtis M. Bedke said, “What’s exciting about aerospace today is that we are in a point here where suddenly, things are happening all across the board in areas that just haven’t been happening for quite a while. There was a period where engine technology had just sort of stagnated — a point where all materials technology was going along at about the same pace.”
According to Space.com, Bedke said there was a time when not much was happening, but all of a sudden, things have started happening in all sorts of areas that apply to aerospace. Bedke was one of the five panelists at the Forum on American Aeronautics that took place on October 27 at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology sponsored the forum
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Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the committee chairman, took the lead on the House Science Committee to push NASA’s aeronautical program to focus on a new set of experimental aircraft. He said that his passion for these programs is not just about improving American aviation but was personal as well.
Smith referred to an X-15 flight piloted by his late father, William J. “Pete” Knight, saying that the last time they went hypersonic in an airplane was in 1967. The flight attained Mach 6.7, which is 6.7 times the speed of sound and is a record for piloted aircraft that still stands nearly 50 years later, notes Space.com.
NASA aims to improve tech
NASA hopes to improve efficiency and reduce the environmental impacts of aircraft, for which it is working with blended wings and other technologies, as per a revelation it made recently, notes Space.com. Lockheed Martin secured a contract with NASA in February for the design of an experimental plane that will be used for testing technologies that would reduce sonic booms. There is currently a ban on supersonic flights over land, but this might change with such an achievement, the website explains.
Space.com notes that there has been a huge impact on researchers’ abilities to carry out consistent work due to the challenges that Congress and the president have had to face in passing budgets. The experts believe that no time can be wasted now.
Bedke said that improved hypersonic technology is “inevitable,” but whether they are going to be the first country to do it is not clear. The U.S. can be the first country to do it, but to do that, lawmakers and scientists in the country must put their minds to it. Also they must stop the “history of fits and starts,” which means they invest a lot of money in a big program and achieve big success but then have no follow-up.