Paris 2011: EADS Reveals the Futurist Mach-4 Zehst and Electrically Powered Voltair

Paris Air Show » 2011
June 23, 2011, 3:45 AM

EADS has unveiled two new futuristic “Flightpath 2050” aircraft. The Zero Emission Hyper Sonic Transport (ZEHST) would fly above the atmosphere to avoid dumping pollutants in it, except for a relatively small amount during takeoff. The descent would be a unpowered glide, apart from restarting the engines for the final approach and landing. A steep climb on takeoff would leave a relatively small noise footprint around the airport.

Jean Botti, EADS’s enthusiastic chief technology officer, said, “ZEHST goes up to five kilometers [16,000 feet in altitude] to Mach 0.8 and then uses a rocket to get up to Mach 2.5. Then the ramjets take it to 23 kilometers [76,000 feet] and Mach 4 plus. So you can do Paris-Tokyo in 2.5 hours.”

Botti said the wings resemble those of the Concorde, illustrating how “the aerodynamics of the ’60s were already very smart.” In fact, the aircraft looks like a combination of an SR-71 Blackbird and a Concorde. With it, EADS Innovation Works (in collaboration with Astrium) has yet again thought “outside the box” to come up a spaceplane that can fly super/hypersonic and not have the environmental impact that is usually assumed to be inevitable.

EADS already has a spaceplane in development: the EADS Astrium CEO François Auque said during his presentation, “Our spaceplane is a mature concept now and we’re looking for development money. We signed an agreement with Singapore in February to develop a one-fifth scale demonstrator.”

The second new aircraft is the Voltair, an all-electric transport aircraft from EADS Innovation Works, which has a “minimize drag, maximize thrust” ethos, said Botti. He explained that it would carry 50 to 70 passengers but that the technology to achieve this with a single electric motor is far from mature.

“There is a lot of progress that needs to be made to get to this point, as we need seven to ten kilowatts per kilogram, which is three times what you will see at Le Bourget,” said Botti.

The Voltair concept has a large, contra-rotating fan engine at the back of the aircraft, the motor using superconductivity with nitrogen cooling. 

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