It looks like that Boeing jet we showed you yesterday isn't going to be the only airplane using hydrogen if the European Union has its way. The European Space Agency just got $14.5 million in a second round of funding from the EU to study the idea of developing A2, a hydrogen-fueled hypersonic aircraft that might travel at an incredible speed of Mach 5.5. They're studying what it would take to build an aircraft so fast that you could fly from Brussels to Sydney in 4.6 hours. Sheesh, that's 10,407 miles. There's even talk of an engine that could propel the craft to Mach 8. This rocket plane makes the Mach 2 of the Concorde seem glacially slow.The trick here is to develop a special engine they're calling Scimitar, capable of thrusting the craft to those rocket-like speeds. It will be a rocket engine with a turbo compressor added, without needing liquid oxygen like those used in the boosters that send spacecraft into orbit. Such an engine is also capable of slower flight, allowing the aircraft to fly over land where supersonic speeds aren't permitted because of sonic booms.
The researchers are proposing a big plane, too. Check out the A2's size next to the gigantic Airbus A380 in the graphic above. This A2 hyperliner is big enough for 300 passengers, and the engineers are hoping to make it cost-effective enough for tickets to ride on the huge plane to cost about the same as a normal business class seat does today. [The Register, via Ecotality Life]