London to Sydney in less than two hours? Scientists are closer to developing hypersonic flight technology

Emma Haslett
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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope - it's some commuters on their way to Sydney (Source: Getty)

Could it one day be possible to fly halfway around the world in less than the time it currently takes to get from London to Manchester?

Scientists in Australia have suggested it might - as they came one step closer to developing so-called hypersonic technology, which could allow people to travel at speeds of over 5,500mph.

Researchers at the University of Queensland said they had successfully tested a hypersonic rocket, called Hifire 5B, which hit 9,200kmph (5,716mph), or Mach 7.5, 278km above the earth.

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The flight was one of 10 experiments which have taken place across the globe, investigating the (presumably unpleasant) physical effects of flying at five times the speed of sound.

“The knowledge gained from these experiments will be applied to develop future flight vehicles and testing of advanced air-breathing hypersonic propulsion engines, known as scramjets,” said Professor Michael Smart, from University of Queensland's school of mechanical and mining engineering.

This isn't the first time hypersonic flight has been experimented with: last year Airbus won a patent for a hypersonic plane (catchily titled "ultra-rapid air vehicle together with a method of aerial locomotion") which could fly at 3,400 miles per hour, twice the speed of Concorde.

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The plane, which can climb near vertically and ascend to 100,000 ft, will allow passengers to travel from London to New York in less than an hour. Convenient, admittedly - but whether commuters could handle the stomach-churning speed is another question altogether...

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