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Japan Solicits NASA's Help on Supersonic Jet 162

An anonymous reader writes "Since the Concorde supersonic jet is now retired, Japan is looking for the next generation supersonic flight solution. Japan's space agency is planning talks with NASA next month. They are looking for a partner since they have experienced a 'string of glitches, including a nose cone problem during the latest test flight in March.'"
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Japan Solicits NASA's Help on Supersonic Jet

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  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @04:37AM (#15291463)
    When last I heard about this issue, it was considered completely feasible to develop a sub-orbital passenger service for those super-premium customers who would otherwise spend some $3000 US on a concorde ticket.

    Further, considering the resources required to maintain the concorde, which is reportedly the norm for such high performance aircraft, I see no reason why it wouldn't be more cost effective to move forward with the concept.

    Granted the maintainance would need to be even more intensive and exacting, but rather than 2 hour transcontinental flights it would be on the order of 30 minutes, allowing for more time in maintainance between trips and creating a more compelling reason for those who consider time more important than money.
  • by joecm ( 16636 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @04:50AM (#15291493) Homepage
    Nova had a great show on the history of the Concorde recently and talked in detail about why it went under. Though there were many reasons, I was a bit suprised that one of the main reasons was that 40 of their most regular customers died in the World Trade Center. Though the number does not seem that high, these same people also allowed other execs in their company to fly which really hurt the concorde.
  • by JRGhaddar ( 448765 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @04:55AM (#15291508)
    Here is an article about the concorde retiring []

    "The airline said that its decision had been made for commercial reasons with passenger revenue falling steadily against a backdrop of rising maintenance costs for the aircraft.
    Detailed discussions over an extended period with Airbus, the aircraft's manufacturer, confirmed the need for an enhanced maintenance programme in the coming years, the carrier added.
    British Airways has decided that such an investment cannot be justified in the face of falling revenue caused by a global downturn in demand for all forms of premium travel in the airline industry.
    The downturn has had a negative impact on Concorde bookings and is set to continue for the foreseeable future, according to the airline."
  • Unequal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mark_MF-WN ( 678030 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @04:56AM (#15291514)
    Even an unequal cooperation can have enormous benefits. Look at Canada and the US with regards to nuclear research. Canada didn't get any bombs out of it (not that we particularly need any when our allies are armed to the nuts with them), but our scientists saw enough of the action to later on make us a leader in nuclear power. Having some of the world's biggest uranium deposits helps, of course, but still. An unequal partnership, if leveraged properly, can be just awesome. It's definitely better than no partnership at all, especially for wee little nations like the aforementioned Canada.
  • Why NASA? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cicero382 ( 913621 ) <clancyj&tiscali,co,uk> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @04:58AM (#15291516)

    Haven't the British and French teams who designed and built Concorde got the best experience?
  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@gm a i l . com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @05:00AM (#15291520)
    Because its too small - it was only designed to seat 140 passengers, and under todays economics that simply is not enough. Oil today is touching $100 a barrel for aviation requirements and that produces a CASM (cost per average seat mile) thats pretty much unsustainable even for the wealthy. The aircraft needs to me bigger and carry more people and cargo (which produces a substantial income for airlines on most routes).

    Aviation has moved on considerably since Concorde was designed in the 1960s, and much more efficient and wider fuselages can be designed today to accomodate a lot more passengers with lower drag.

    Rolls Royce are also on record saying that there would be little improvement efficiency wise in newer turbojet and turbofan engines over the engines Concorde used, those engines were as efficient as they can be made even with current technology. The efficiencies seen elsewhere in engine design do not scale all the way up to engines capable of sustained mach 2.
  • has a web page offering an artist's rendition of the supersonic jet plane

    Just an artist's rendition? How about a video of the prototype taking off [] instead? :-)
  • It'll never fly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Deathmatchbunny ( 973674 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @05:37AM (#15291620)
    Commercial supersonic flight is dead. -There is just no way that you can get around the fact that it takes roughly two to three times the fuel per km flown to travel at supersonic speed. There are fairly fundamental reasons why there will be no significant advances in this area. A future supersonic jet transport might have a glide angle of 12:1 (concorde was ~8:1) while a modern commercial jet is over 20:1 and a future BWB is over 30:1 (some gliders hit 60:1). -The sonic boom prevents any overflight of populated areas and even if significant noise reduction could be achieved the very small constituency for such a service would still see any residual boom noise used as an excuse by the general (and envious) public to restrict or outright ban such overflight. - Exhaust emissions at 20km altitude (roughly double 10km of commercial jets) are of far greater environmental concern due to lower mixing rates with lower atmosphere, impact of water vapour as the number one greenhouse gas and proximity to the politically and environmentally sensitive ozone layer. -Technology really hasn't improved much in relevant materials or engines. Add to this the high costs of development, relatively restricted range and limited routes and you have a total non-starter.
  • Re:It'll never fly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:09AM (#15291870) Journal
    > it takes roughly two to three times the fuel per km flown

    First class is roughly two times more expensive than economy class. This one charging ten times the economy class will still produce enough demand to fill all seats.

    > The sonic boom prevents any overflight of populated areas and even if significant noise reduction could be achieved the very small constituency for such a service would still see any residual boom noise used as an excuse by the general (and envious) public to restrict or outright ban such overflight

    Most of the route over ocean, no problem. The part over populated land can be either performed at altitudes where the residual boom (after active silencing, tech already present in fighter planes) reaching the ground will be unaudible - or travel at subsonic speeds over the land.

    > Exhaust emissions at 20km altitude (roughly double 10km of commercial jets) are of far greater environmental concern due to lower mixing rates with lower atmosphere

    So there will be just a few such planes. With prices this high there won't be all that much demand anyway... and with enough lobbying environment impact will just get forgotten. Not that I want it, it's just a realistic look at what happens.

    > Add to this the high costs of development,
    Government-funded, NASA plus JSA, come on...

    > relatively restricted range

    Half the Earth. Do you need more?

    >and limited routes

    Only routes where it would make sense. Really no need to fly supersonic from New York to Washington DC. It's not meant to replace current planes, it's just to fill a small niche where there's small but constant demand and no supply.

    > and you have a total non-starter.

    You have some not all that hard obstacles, no showstoppers.
  • by cyclone96 ( 129449 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:27AM (#15292480)

    When you pool resources you get things like the ISS. At this point in that project can we really say we haved saved money by doing it the international way?

    As a NASA employee who has worked on ISS, no.

    All the usual criticism of ISS aside, there are a few things that the cooperation with Russia enabled. Politically it made ISS much more viable as a program (frankly, it wouldn't be around without it) and an easier "sell" to congress. The alternate access with Soyuz has had obvious benefits with the orbiter problems. Personally, I enjoy working with my Russian counterparts very much and I love traveling there.

    But cheaper? No way. It takes 10 times as long to solve even the most basic problems. With the Russians, the language barrier is significant (ever try to work out a complex technical problem through an interpreter?). The Europeans and Japanese communicate much faster since they have excellent English skills, but their overall lack of experience with manned spaceflight programs offset that advantage. Time zone differences are significant (all of our meetings must be extremely early in the morning for us and late in the afternoon for them). We spend a ton of money on international travel (there is no substitute for face to face meetings).

    There is a lot of overhead associated with export control since anything associated with aerospace may be classified as a munition. Stuff that is classified can't be shared, period.

    The Russians are so strapped for cash they generally won't give up documents/engineering support without a contract (and payment).

    There is no "chief engineer". Whenever the crap hits the fan, there is no person at the top who can make a final decision (as would be the case in a program managed by, say, the Air Force). Many engineering problems become international negotiations with politics in the mix. When Dennis Tito paid for his Soyuz trip a number of years ago, the US laboratory had a massive systems failure several days before his launch. Some members of Russian management thought (due to the poor way NASA handled his flight) it was some sort of staged event and basically said they were going to launch him no matter what.

    I'm sure many of you have international project success stories. For a large aerospace program, however, I think the only model that is really cost effective is having an international partner supply a subsytem as a "black box" and in a role subordinate to a overall integrator. That worked for the FGB module of ISS (which was procured from Krunichev under subcontract, on time, on budget). Partnership is definitely not cheaper.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.