Japan to test next-gen SST concept

 - October 19, 2006, 12:07 PM

apan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans soon to resume flight tests of a remote-controlled scaled experimental airplane in its quest to develop a next-generation supersonic transport. The flight trial of the scaled experimental supersonic transport (SST) has a planned window of September 15 to October 15, but the agency said an “anomaly encountered with the aircraft’s signal processor during ground testing on August 22” precluded any tests until at least September 29.

To be conducted in Woomera, Australia, this test will be JAXA’s second attempt involving a rocket carrying a scaled SST model that is 38 feet long and spans 15.5 feet. The first test, which was conducted in July 2002, ended in failure when the rocket carrying the scaled airplane crashed immediately after launch.

In the coming experiment, a rocket will carry the scaled airplane to an altitude of more than 65,000 feet, where it will be released and then accelerate to Mach 2.0, according to JAXA officials. The airplane’s onboard sensors will gather data on surface friction, temperature and pressure, among other factors, before it descends to Earth by parachute.

In June, Japanese and French aerospace companies signed an agreement to conduct joint research on a next-generation passenger-carrying SST as a successor to Concorde, which retired from airline service in 2003.

Compared with Concorde, JAXA envisions that the next-generation SST will be more environmentally friendly, provide better passenger comfort, seat up to 300 people, achieve high reliability and safety records and fly at twice the speed of sound. Another goal is for the SST to have fares comparable with that of current long-distance business-class travel aboard subsonic airliners.