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Japan Plans Test of 'New Concorde'

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the yes-please-go-faster-please dept.

Science 424

Steve Nixon writes "Japan's space agency plans to launch an arrow-shaped airplane at twice the speed of sound high over the Australian outback as early as next month in a crucial test of the country's push to develop a supersonic successor to the retired Concorde."

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Hmmm (from TFA) (2, Funny)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379335)

If the 1.1 billion yen ($10 million) experiment works, Japan's space agency plans to follow up with similar tests of a jet-powered craft, Kyodo News Agency reported.

I, for one, think it would be infinitly cooler to fly in a rocketship than in a crummy supersonic jet.

Re:Hmmm (from TFA) (1)

utnow (808790) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379783)

I'm just looking at the number. Compare $10million to anything big done in the US. Ten million is like a drop in the bucket (10 really nice pairs of space tighty-whities anyone?)

Did anyone else (0, Offtopic)

varkman (818678) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379339)

hear the thunderbird theme while reading this?

heh (1, Funny)

domipheus (751857) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379342)

The craft will float back to earth by parachute after the 15 minute flight.

Bert: *looks up* Is that a... what the hell is that falling towards us?
Ernie: Looks like it's just a plane, Bert.
Bert: Ohh yeah so it is. Imagine that.

Re:heh (0)

brenddie (897982) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379371)

quick shoot it

Re:heh (0)

Sepper (524857) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379526)

I was thinking more of Austin Power's "Ho my god, it look like a huge..." quotes.

Re:heh (0)

Drooling Iguana (61479) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379661)

"What's that, up there in the sky? It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superm-- No, it's a plane."


Seen it already (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13379348)

This was seen [] in the skies over Tokyo in the 1960s. At least the beak is the same.

Looks like ... (1, Insightful)

grunherz (447840) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379352)

I saw this this morning and all I could see was the abandoned Republic XF-103 [] .

Re:Looks like ... (4, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379607)

So the XF-103 was a Mach-3 project in 1956-7, a dozen years after the invention of the jet engine. It's now 2005 and there's just one country even trying to make a supersonic passenger aircraft. Sad, sad, sad.

Re:Looks like ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13379768)

People complained about the noise and sonic booms they made. Hence it was limited in where it could fly, hence making it less useful.

Pat Robertson Issues Fatwa Against Venezuela (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13379363)

Courtesy of Robertson []

Televangelist Calls for Chavez' Death

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

(08-23) 03:20 PDT Virginia Beach, Va. (AP) --

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested on-air that American operatives assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop his country from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said Monday on the Christian Broadcast Network's "The 700 Club."

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush, accusing the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Robertson, 75, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a former presidential candidate, accused the United States of failing to act when Chavez was briefly overthrown in 2002.

Electronic pages and a message to a Robertson spokeswoman were not immediately returned Monday evening.

Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter and a major supplier of oil to the United States. The CIA estimates that U.S. markets absorb almost 59 percent of Venezuela's total exports.

Venezuela's government has demanded in the past that the United States crack down on Cuban and Venezuelan "terrorists" in Florida who they say are conspiring against Chavez.

Robertson has made controversial statements in the past. In October 2003, he suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device. He has also said that feminism encourages women to "kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

Yeah, but is it robot controlled? (4, Funny)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379367)

It ain't cool unless it got a robot.

This is Japan we're talking about (5, Funny)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379382)

The entire PLANE is probably a robot. With superfluous robot crew and robot stewardesses with creepy hands.

Re:This is Japan we're talking about (1)

Sepper (524857) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379548)

With superfluous robot crew and robot stewardesses with creepy hands.

Running on Bistromathics? []

Re:This is Japan we're talking about (4, Funny)

Drooling Iguana (61479) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379705)

No, no, the plane turns into a robot.

Re:Yeah, but is it robot controlled? (4, Insightful)

DigitalRaptor (815681) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379682)

Speaking of "robot controlled", I find it amazing that jets like the 747 don't have a way to detect a loss of cabin pressure and go to a lower altitude.

The plane that crashed in Greece flew on autopilot until it ran out of gas.

Had the autopilot detected the loss of cabin pressure and immediately dropped to the lowest safe altitude (10,000 if there aren't any mountains to run into, for instance), the pilots would have regained consciousness and 150+ people wouldn't have died (not to mention the loss of a very expensive piece of equipment).

Re:Yeah, but is it robot controlled? (1)

AddressException (187785) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379760)

I find it amazing that jets like the 747 don't have a way to detect a loss of cabin pressure

They do have such a system -- what do you think triggers the masks to drop from the ceiling?

I'm guessing the plane wasn't on autopilot at the time, and I'm not sure allowing the pressure system to switch it on is such a good idea.

Re:Yeah, but is it robot controlled? (4, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379810)

You yourself mention the reason why this doesnt happen - terrain. An autopilot cannot conduct avoidance measures for other aircraft or terrain, so theres little point in having an auto descend capability, because if it happens over, say, Heathrow then you have a huge possibility of collisions with other aircraft, especially if one of them is going to make sudden, unexpected movements like dive 25,000 feet.

What you need to be asking is why didnt the cockpit oxygen systems work? You have 15 - 30 seconds to put an oxygen mask on at 35,000ft so how was it that neither Pilot or Flight Officer managed to get their (independant) mask on and descend the aircraft?

This is the next step (5, Insightful)

Crixus (97721) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379375)

Some sort of high altitude Concorde replacement is necessary.

    My choice would be a spaceplane of sorts that takes parabolic trajectories. I've been hearing about plans of a craft of this type that would get you from NY to Tokyo in 45 minutes.

  Burt Rutan WHERE ARE YOU?! :-)

  Sign me up.

Re:This is the next step (0, Troll)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379424)

Burt is currently hiding up the asses of people who don't know jack shit about orbital mechanics.

Re:This is the next step (3, Insightful)

Bastian (66383) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379527)

I'm curious why you use the term 'necessary.'

The Concorde, having come into existence decades before the explosion of the Internet and stuff like videoconferencing, was rolled out at a time when business and government folks (the only ones for whom it could ever be anything but a luxury) had a much greater need for a supersonic jetliner, and yet only sixteen were ever built. The entire project would almost certainly have been a complete and dismal failure had there not been massive subsidies from the French and British governments keeping the thing in the air.

There in the end, the Concorde was having a hard time filling seats - yes, the crash in 2000 and Sep. 11 played into this, but my guess is that the demand was already dropping, and these events just exacerbated the situation.

This Japanese supersonic jetliner is about as necessary as the Bugati Veyron or a jet turbine powered motorcycle.

Re:This is the next step (5, Insightful)

dtmos (447842) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379630)

You obviously do not fly across the Pacific very often. Realizing that you're flying at 550 mph when technology to fly at 1400 mph was introduced in the 1970s becomes really excruciating after about 10 hours into the flight.

To the point that you'd pay a significant surcharge to already be at your destination, asleep in your hotel room.

The high fuel consumption difficulty mentioned in TFA is what kept Concorde off of the Pacific routes; if that is resolved as the Japanese intend, I see a nice market for this plane.

Re:This is the next step (0)

Golias (176380) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379813)

You obviously do not fly across the Pacific very often. Realizing that you're flying at 550 mph when technology to fly at 1400 mph was introduced in the 1970s becomes really excruciating after about 10 hours into the flight.

And realizing that planes occasionally will violently break up into little pieces at supersonic speeds, with no hope of survival, when some tiny thing goes just a tiny bit wrong... makes you realize that getting to Japan in four hours might not be so important after all.

Re:This is the next step (0, Offtopic)

lastchance_000 (847415) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379649)

I need a jet turbine powered motorcycle!

...and a pony!

Re:This is the next step (1)

Franklinstein (909568) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379750)

I disagree. We are entering the age of globalization, and since we can already communicate everywhere in the world instantly, the next step is to bring us there physically as quickly as possible.

Why? (4, Insightful)

f97tosc (578893) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379565)

Some sort of high altitude Concorde replacement is necessary

The original concorde had a failed business model (granted, noise regulation around some American airports didn't help).

What has fundamentally changed since then, that is likely to make this more successful? I think on the contrary when new "regular" flights such as 787 (or the new Airbus) are somewhat faster and have much better communications (internet, etc), it will make the value proposition for a super-fast, super-expensive flight even more questionable.


Re:This is the next step (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379708)

No flight is necessary. Desirable yes, people like to travel, but they don't need to.

I liked how the article put a slight negative spin on Concorde and this latest Japanese plane. Many Americans wish they were producing such a plane and are quite bitter than the UK and France have beat them to it in many areas of aviation (first with supersonic passenger jet, first to produce a horizontal take off fighter).

The important thing is will this plane generate much more damaging pollution? we shouldn't waste fuel resources and pollute the planet just because we're impatient to get somewhere.

Only 10 million? (4, Insightful)

TurdTapper (608491) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379380)

Wow, when was the last time the US did an experiment for that little money?

Of course, their last one crashed into the desert in a perhaps a little extra money could have been put to good use.

It gets worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13379656)

" ... an annual research budget of about $1.84 million over the next three years ... "

This project sounds like it is in the very early stages. If this does come to fruition, it will be many years from now.

Given the rising cost of fuel, they might be better off researching slower methods of transport.

I don't get it. (4, Interesting)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379385)

The Concorde first flew in 1969 and became a symbol of French and European industrial acumen. But the planes were retired from commercial service in October 2003, never having recouped the billions of tax dollars invested in them.

The article did a good job writing up all the past failures of this Japanese program, but one thing that was conspicuously absent was a rationale for why Japan is doing this at all. Considering the fiscal failure of the Concorde, I would expect any article on this topic to include what the "next generation" plans to do differently other than just niftier technology.

Two reasons: (4, Insightful)

mekkab (133181) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379435)

1) Concorde was an engineering marvel that never got stepped up with the times. Japan and France are betting they can make a much more efficient engine that would save on fuel consumption.

2) Large bodies of water. You can't fly the concord at full speed over the continental united states (pretty much squashing SST in America). But you can do it over the vastness of the pacific. If you shorten that route, business men and women will beat a path to your door, check book in hand. So would international parcel carriers.

Re:Two reasons: where the hell is my back end? (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379623)

I don't think parcel carriers would be using this technology at all, they need to save money, and the fuel consumption alone would be a detering factor...maybe by 2090 when we have nuclear powered vehicles or something...
also, can you imagine the look of horror when the pilot realizes that with that much g force, the parcels all picked up enough velocity from not being tied down, that they take off the whole back end of the plane....

"Hey Vern, did you forget to tie down dem' dere'packagers ergain?"...

Re:Two reasons: (2, Interesting)

quanticle (843097) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379636)

The Atlantic is a very large body of water as well. Yet businesspeople did not beat a path to the old Concorde's doorstep looking for high-speed transatlantic flights. Why will the Pacific market be any different?

As for cargo, the original Concorde only had room enough for 100 or so passengers. That doesn't translate into a whole lot of cargo space. Considering the fact that cargo usually doesn't need to travel as quickly as people (even the most perishable cargo can last a few hours with proper packing), the concept of SST as a cargo hauler is almost a sure bust.

Re:Two reasons: (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379772)

2005 SRS Best Practices Awards
Parcel carriers need cargo space and low cost - neither of which this gives.

Plus, the air transit time is a small part of the total delievry time.

Re:I don't get it. (4, Insightful)

onion2k (203094) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379476)

Calling Concorde a fiscal failure is a little deceptive. Sure, the British and French government's never got their investment back from British Airways and Air France, but they never wanted it back. European government often backs extremely expensive development of aviation projects without requiring the money is paid back. It annoys Boeing and Lockheed no end. But they do it to keep jobs and confidence going in the industry.

And besides, it's cool.

Sometimes you have to look beyond simply making a profit.

Re:I don't get it. (3, Insightful)

Malc (1751) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379566)

Yeah, and the likes of Boeing and Lockheed get the equivalent of subsidies from the US government. There's no outside competition in their market (defense industry), which annoys Airbus no end ;)

Re:I don't get it. (2, Interesting)

quanticle (843097) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379695)

Well, if it never turned a profit, or even broke even, I think "fiscal failure" is a pretty appropriate term. I agree with you in the sense that sometimes fiscal failures are necessary to develop and refine technology, as with the Concorde. But that doesn't change the fact that the venture didn't turn a profit. It also doesn't change the fact that the venture may have had successes in a non-financial sense (i.e. advancement of technology, boost of national prestige, etc.)

Perhaps, instead of fiscal failure, we could use the term "financial nonperformer".

Failure implies intent to succeed (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379751)

I wouldn't call a trip to the movies a `fiscal failure' even though it invariably brings about a net loss on my financial worth. But, as I'm not going to the theatre to make money, I don't think that a fiscal failure is quite the right word unless by going to the movies, I'm stepping outside of my budget. And, in fact, if my goal of going to the movies is to help the projectionists keep their jobs, and the theatre does stay in business and the projectionists do keep their jobs, then there is a limited sense in which my net loss is a fiscal success.

If the goal of the Concorde project was to make money off of the flights, then I would agree with you that it was a fiscal failure. But if the goal was to improve R&D or simply to put highly skilled workers to work, then the word failure doesn't make much sense unless the project failed at its stated goals.

Don't kill the Kangaroo(s) (0, Troll)

emidln (806452) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379402)

So let me get this right. The Japanese build a supersonic jet for passenger flight. They have the design, build a prototype and decide to test it....over Australia? It sounds like somebody picked the short stick.

Re:Don't kill the Kangaroo(s) (3, Insightful)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379540)

You would rather they tested it over a populated area? It's the closest land area to Japan where they could test. Tests over the ocean might result in a loss of the vehicle, so they go to the Outback where they have lots of land with few people. Makes perfect sense.

Re:Don't kill the Kangaroo(s) (0, Redundant)

Clockwork Apple (64497) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379562)

My guess is that testing over Japan would be bad because it is so small. By the time it got up to speed, there would be only water to land it in.

They are testing it over a larger landmass so there will be an area large enough so that it can be recovered without resorting to ships or subs (in case it might sink).


there's a need for it (4, Interesting)

PureCreditor (300490) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379408)

i think there's a decent-size market of businessmen between North American and Japan/China that will appreciate the HUGE time savings when frequently traveling across the Pacific Ocean. Instead of having to eat 3 meals, 2 movies, and 1 hibernation, a businessman can depart San Francisco at 9am, have brunch on the plane, browse the internet and work on polishing his powerpoint presentation, take a quick 1.5 hr nap, and arrive at Shanghai at 7:30am, refreshed, and ready to meet with his business partners.

what we need is a Concorde-replacement, not more bureaucracy and political bickering.

Re:there's a need for it (4, Insightful)

matt4077 (581118) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379501)

well, developing it in japan doesn't mean that they are planning to use it (only) there. There is certainly a market for this between all three major economic areas: North America, Europe, Asia. The Japanese will certainly be happy to sell it.

Besides, did they really make you eat 2 movies? Does it hurt?

Re:there's a need for it (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379765)

There was also a very large market for trans-Atlantic business that the Concorde tried to serve. The problem isn't the benefits provided by SSTs, its the costs. Simply put, the Concorde was very expensive to fly and maintain. The carriers (British Airways, and Air France) passed on those high maintenance and fuel costs in the form of exorbitant ticket prices, quashing demand for the Concorde among all but the super-rich elite, who used Concorde flights as a status symbol (much like owning a Ferrari).

If the Concorde's fuel costs were high in the mid-1990's imagine what they are now, with $60/barrel oil prices.

Re:there's a need for it (1)

gabuzo (34544) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379770)

i think there's a decent-size market of businessmen [...]

When the Concorde returned to commercial service after the crash many customers find out they can live without it. Knowing that the oil price is likely to keep rising in the forthcoming years will there really be enough customers ready to pay, I doubt it.

Not really very impressive. (3, Interesting)

onion2k (203094) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379411)

This new plane is supposed to be able to carry 300 people at Mach 2. Concorde's top speed was Mach 2 as well. It was designed over 40 years ago.

I'd have thought we'd be capable of at least twice that by now.

It is capable of more than twice "that" (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379488)

For certain definitions of that. :)

From [] :
The Concorde was designed to carry about 100 passengers, though it was certified to carry as many as 128. The theoretical maximum that the aircraft could accommodate was 144, though the cabin would be quite cramped in this configuration.

Re:Not really very impressive. (1)

hecian (828253) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379502)

There's no need for faster than Mach 2 planes, but rather for more cost effective ones. What prevented Concorde from beeing successful was that it was designed before oil prices went up in the early 70's.

If they end up making a supersonic plane that allows masses to get access to supersonic flights, _that_ will be impressive.

Re:Not really very impressive. (4, Funny)

pohl (872) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379574)

The Concorde carried 100 passengers at Mach 2, or 50 passengers per Mach...this new plane will do three times the number of passengers-per-Mach as the Concorde, which works out to a rate of advancement of 3.75 passengers-per-mach-per-year.

I just wrote that because I thought passengers-per-Mach was an amusing metric.

Re:Not really very impressive. (1)

Shai-kun (728212) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379710)

How many Libraries of Congress per fortnight does that convert to?

Re:Not really very impressive. (2, Insightful)

Have Blue (616) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379625)

The difference is, this one will be *cheaper*. Your car goes about as fast as one made in the 1960s too, but nobody would argue auto technology has stagnated since then.

Re:Not really very impressive. (1)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379745)

I would, to some degree. Cars definitely have more safety, but that's the only real improvement (not that it's a minor improvement). But they still use gasoline engines, most commuter cars still get 25-30 MPG, trucks still get ~10 MPG, etc. They might have more power, but it only goes into pushing more of the weight of the safety equipment around. Essentially, other than safety, nothing has changed drastically since the 60s. You might say "hybrid" power cars are a huge improvement, but personally I don't see it as such. They only get marginally better gas mileage, and sacrifice huge amounts of weight, and non-trivial amounts of passenger and cargo space because of it.


But how much fuel does it use? (4, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379422)

How much energy does it take to break the sound barrier? I'm curious because I know that relatively cheap oil (< $200 per barrel) will end in a few decades [] , and there don't yet seem to be any renewable jet fuels. After it becomes too expensive to extract oil from the ground, how are airlines going to keep their birds in the air?

Re:But how much fuel does it use? (0)

Baddas (243852) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379530)

Hydrogen is a perfectly acceptable aviation fuel, albeit somewhat bulky (~4x the volume per joule, liquid form). However, the interesting thing is that you can use it as lift.

Certainly, with bulk carriers doing much business, if fuel is hydrogen, then fuel is also buoyancy even at 10 atm or so.

Re:But how much fuel does it use? (2)

Radres (776901) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379556)

Yes but according to this book [] , people have been saying that oil will run out in 10 years since the discovery of the internal combustion engine. No one really knows how much oil is left in the ground. I find to be a bit sensationalist and it seems that its author is mostly interested in selling doomsday books, which will always sell. Running out of oil is of course still a large issue that we must prepare for, but just because that might someday happen, those of us who have no control over such things have no reason to not live there life as normal.

Re:But how much fuel does it use? (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379587)

Furthermore, each book that he sells wastes some oil, which makes his prophecies self-fulfilling :)

Re:But how much fuel does it use? (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379596)

End in a few decades? Not likely. There is enough oil in Saudi, UAE, Iraq, etc to last more than 50 years at the current consumption rate. Add in the HUGE oil sands deposits in Canada and deep water finds in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil in the Artic Wildlife Refuge areas, African onshore and off is barely tapped, and the Russian oil fields can be worked over to produce more. I also suspect you'll see more drilling in China as I suspect that they have reserves but want to hoard those and buy the rest of the worlds oil. As far as "renewable" jet fuel, jet fuel and gasoline can be made from coal (serveral 100's of years left in the USA alone), or from BioMass, or from Natural Gas. Anything with a carbon and hydrogen can be cracked and reformed into other products. I suspect plastics can be recycled into something useful as well but that might take too much energy, recycling plastic into more plastic is probably most efficient.

Re:But how much fuel does it use? (1)

ocularsinister (774024) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379780)

That website is sensationalist rubbish, but to be fair the point its trying to make is not that we are about to run out of oil, but that we are about to run of cheap oil. This is a distinct possibility driven not by declining supplies bit rapidly rising demand, especially from China and India. Extracting oil from sand deposits is very expensive. I believe there were some attempts to extract oil from oil sands in Florida (I think, don't count me on this!) during the oil crisis of the late 70's. Once that blew over, it was abandoned as too expensive. If oil prices keep rising, it may become economical again, though in real terms we're still a long way from the late 70's oil crisis. However, were that to happen, it wouldn't be cheap oil, and by implication oil in general wouldn't be cheap. In other words, we would have run out of cheap oil. I wouldn't start panicing just yet though.

Re:But how much fuel does it use? (4, Interesting)

msobkow (48369) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379604)

Back in high school the military had brought over one of their choppers. The pilot told us one of the "cool" things about the jet turbine engine was that it could run on almost anything in a pinch, including alcohol, diesel, and gasoline.

That being the case, I don't see why you couldn't use biodiesel or methanol/ethanol to fuel a jet engine. There might be issues with the power curve for some models, but that likely just means changing the design parameters for future aircraft.

Re:But how much fuel does it use? (1)

mmkkbb (816035) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379696)

Apparently they just use a really big Coleman backpacking stove. []

Re:But how much fuel does it use? (1)

rtaylor (70602) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379746)

I don't think anyone will go back to taking a 2 week journy across the ocean by sailboat. Airlines will raise their prices and most people will pay them.

Get rid of your car if you can use public transit instead. I found an extra $12k in my pocket per year (insurance, parking, lease, etc.). That makes for a pretty good vacation even if flights quadrouple in price.

Finally. (2, Insightful)

Walterk (124748) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379426)

This deserves to succeed. Slow travel along long distances is a pain in the butt. If they can make it consume about 3/4th of the fuel that Concorde needed, that it'll probably already make a profit.

The techonology is already there, they just need to optimise it. This is a great collaboration of the two frontiers of technology, Europe and Japan.

This will probably get modded down by those American Boeing supporters, who have made nothing but new versions of 40 year old aircraft.

What? (3, Insightful)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379514)

You praise this "new" Concorde for basically being a new, slightly improved version of the old one and then bash Boieng for doing pretty much the same thing with its own models. Come on, the Concorde is 40 years old too y'know


Re:What? (1)

szaz (890101) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379609)

How do you know that this is just a 'new, slightly improved' concorde? Do you work on it or something?

Re:What? (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379660)

I see no evidence to the contrary - from the pictures (design art ss they may be) in the article, to it's speed and intended usage.

I severely doubt it's anything more. A revoluionnary design would be far more hyped than this.

Our technical peak was the 60's? (4, Interesting)

HairyCanary (688865) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379431)

When was the last time we sent someone to the moon? The 60's. And the last time a supersonic plane was developed? The 60's. Is it just money? Why else did we begin to achieve notable success in aerospace in the 60's, and then backslide to where we are now? By 2020 we hope to be back where we were in the 60's. Great.

Re:Our technical peak was the 60's? (1)

spurtle15 (899792) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379522)

Of course, that's what a monopoly does to you. During the 60's, you had the cold war, so it was a competition between the US and the Soviet Union to be the best. Since the cold war has ended, the US hasn't been producing anything technical along those lines.

Re:Our technical peak was the 60's? (3, Funny)

Ced_Ex (789138) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379528)

When was the last time we sent someone to the moon? The 60's. And the last time a supersonic plane was developed? The 60's. Is it just money? Why else did we begin to achieve notable success in aerospace in the 60's, and then backslide to where we are now? By 2020 we hope to be back where we were in the 60's. Great.

I believe the drop in development seems to be curiously related to the drop in the use of slide-rulers and the subsequent usage of electronic calculators.

Quick, someone smart research this and back me up.

Re:Our technical peak was the 60's? (1)

ausoleil (322752) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379613)

> When was the last time we sent someone to the moon? The 60's.

Eugene Cernan was the last human on the moon, in December of 1972.

Re:Our technical peak was the 60's? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13379622)

But at least now we have Pokémon.

Re:Our technical peak was the 60's? (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379673)

Don't generalize. I have a device on my wrist the size of a matchbook that has more computing power than a large room stuffed with 60's-era equipment, and it will run continuously for years without any maintenance beyond keeping it reasonably clean.

Price to fly (3, Insightful)

NelsonM (906317) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379460)

The United States definitely isn't ready for something like this. With so many airlines going bankrupt because of a super competitive market and absurd fuel costs, I don't see this taking off. (Pun fully intended) ;-)

I don't see too many people using this service, unless somehow they can keep the ticket prices reasonable. And even that isn't very likely, considering the plane is strapped to a rocket.

Re:Price to fly (1)

szaz (890101) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379595)

So...? The rest of the World is 'ready for this'. Sheesh

The US market is /not/ competetive (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379674)

Certain segments of the market might be competetive, but the US market as a whole suffers from the opposite problem, too much of it /isn't/ competetive. A good deal of the hubs are owned by single airlines who then fix the prices.

The reason that so many US airlines are going broke is because of incompetent management, not because of a supercompetetive market and increased fuel costs. I'll concede that the fuel costs don't help much, but the problems are far more systemic than a single marginal cost presently going through the roof.

Re:The US market is /not/ competetive (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379797)

They're not actually going broke. They've just found a way to tap a less risky revinue stream. Look at AMTRAK for the extreme example of this tactic.

Very curious. (2, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379510)

One might suspect the real purpose is more along the lines of keeping the aircraft industry ticking over at some minor level. There have been billions already spent on supersonic wind-tunnel tests. It's extremely unlikely any new design will be found that's even 10% more efficient than those already developed. And as long as oil is at the current prices, there's no chance the plane would be able to pay for itself, even at $15,000 a seat.

Supersonic security lines? (5, Interesting)

BucksCountyCycleGeek (893639) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379513)

And I for one would like to welcome our Mach 2 Japanese overlords...

Hey. That one actually seemed plausible. Oh well...

OK, seriously. Yes it's all well and good to go Mach 2 but this sounds like another pork barrel (rice basket?) project on the part of the Chinese. Aircraft speed is increasingly becoming less relevant to total travel time. Traveling to Asia will always take the better part of a day. There will always be an hour's drive to the airport, a two hour security buffer time, then 1 hour of customs on the other side. It gets even worse when you consider that Japan might not be your final destination.

8 hours is optimistic because the developers don't seem to have a plan for getting rid of the sonic boom, which means the airliner will have to fly overwater instead of over Canada. That might make supersonic flight to Asia only possible from the West Coast, not the East Coast.

When enough processes have been revamped to make traveling to Japan like going to New York for a day then maybe a supersonic transport might be worthwhile.

Re:Supersonic security lines? (1)

cnerd2025 (903423) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379578)

I completely agree. If someone could invent the Transporter, then we wouldn't need this :-D. The time it takes to fly is dependant upon the non-flying time. Being more serious, if someone came up with systems to speed up baggage claim, check-in, and security checks, without losing any more privacy, then that would be a tech breakthrough.

Re:Supersonic security lines? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379588)

There will always be an hour's drive to the airport, a two hour security buffer time, then 1 hour of customs on the other side. It gets even worse when you consider that Japan might not be your final destination.

I'd also give ~30 minutes to an hour for loading and taxying to the runway.

Rail/subways have proven to be a target for terrorists as well, so I imagine that even if we switched to a high speed fuel efficient railway system for long distance travel(advantage: take your family vehicle with you for a nominal fee!), that the security checks would eat up major time.

I think that a good solution would be the so called personal raid/pods systems. That way you never have too many people in a station, car or anything to make a large target. If you can get the individual electric rail up to ~120mph outside the cities, it'd beat planes easily, as you'll be going door to door practically, not having to detour through a hub.

Re:Supersonic security lines? (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379697)

It's Rice Bowl, not Rice Basket, get your literary illusions in one shoe !

Better wake up, America (1, Insightful)

Old VMS Junkie (739626) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379533)

Yet another example of the rest of the world surpassing the US in a key engineering endeavor. We reward all the wrong things in America (think about reality TV, political correctness, the religous right, and so on) and then wonder why the rest of the world is churning out better engineers and scientists and why our technical jobs are being off-shored.

Even companies we think of as technology leaders may not be anymore. This quote:

A breakthrough in supersonic flight could help Japan leapfrog ahead in the aerospace field. The country, which does much of parts manufacturing for U.S.-based Boeing Co...

says just as much about what's going on as anything else in the article.

And, yes, I'm an American engineer.

Re:Better wake up, America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13379635)

What do any of these "wrong things" you mentioned have to do with jobs going offshore and America's failure to produce scientists and engineers? You might be surprised to know this, but most religious folks aren't exactly jumping for joy that jobs are going offshore and America is losing its technological lead. I suppose if you want to stretch, you might could make the point that the religous right voted for Bush and he certainly does NOT care about jobs going offshore or America losing its technological lead, but I fail to see what reality TV and political correctness have to do with this.

Re:Better wake up, America (1)

szaz (890101) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379638)

Come on dude, cheer up.
IT's not a competition (or at least it shouldn't be). Why can't we all be pleased that HUMANKIND is developing new technology? Does it matter which Country the engineers happen to be in?

Spot the disgruntled Brit (2, Informative)

Obvius (779709) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379557)

"The Concorde first flew in 1969 and became a symbol of French and European industrial acumen."
Actually the Concorde was a Franco-British project, not a Franco-European one (whatever that means).
"The development project was negotiated as an international treaty between Britain and France ..." []
Surely such a rare collaboration between the cheese-munchers and the Perfide Anglais deserves to be recognised... 8-)

Old Concept (2, Insightful)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379563)

This concept, the piggy-backed plane, is basically the original concept for launching the space shuttle. The idea was to launch the space shuttle aboard a high altitude, re-usable airplane (rocket powered). Once at a specific altitude, the space shuttle would detach and use it's own power to continue into space.

Congress killed it because of money problems.

Over 25 years later, we see the Japanese using the same technology as a commercial airliner. There is nothing really new here, only the implementation has changed.

Nonetheless, it's a good idea.

Re:Old Concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13379654)

The rocket launch is for R&D only. Take-off and landing are the hardest things to do, so take them out of the equation when testing in-flight aerodynamics with the rocket and parachute.

Re:Old Concept (3, Insightful)

ausoleil (322752) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379722)

Not exactly what happened. Close, but it was never the design of the shuttle that was so costly as it was the lack of political will on the part of the Niuxon administration, who had no real clue as to how to proceed once Apollo was winding down.

According to Wikipedia:

However, in reality, NASA found itself with a rapidly plunging budget. Rather than trying to adapt their long-term future to their dire financial situation, they attempted to save as many of the individual projects as possible. The mission to Mars was rapidly dismissed, but the Space Station and Shuttle conserved. Eventually only one of them could be saved, so it stood to reason that a low-cost Shuttle system would be the better option, because without it a large station would never be affordable.

A number of designs were proposed, but many of them were complex and varied widely in their systems. An attempt to re-simplify was made in the form of the "DC-3" by one of the few people left in NASA with the political importance to accomplish it, Maxime Faget, who had designed the Mercury capsule, among other vehicles. The DC-3 was a small craft with a 20,000-pound (9 tonne) (or less) payload, a four-man capacity, and limited maneuverability. At a minimum, the DC-3 provided a baseline "workable" (but not significantly advanced) system by which other systems could be compared for price/performance compromises.

The defining moment for NASA was when they, in desperation to see their only remaining project saved, went to the Air Force for its blessing. NASA asked that the USAF place all of their future launches on the Shuttle instead of their current expendable launchers (like the Titan II), in return for which they would no longer have to continue spending money upgrading those designs -- the Shuttle would provide more than enough capability.

The Air Force reluctantly agreed, but only after demanding a large increase in capability to allow for launching their projected spy satellites (mirrors are heavy).

The original space shuttle was just that -- a shuttlecraft not designed to carry heavy cargo into orbit.

At the end of the Apollo era, the politicians had collectively decided to give in to the "spend the money on earth" socialist types and were cutting the budget of a program that had succeeded both politically and technically. NASA had plans to build space stations, go to Mars and also to develop new vehicles to ferry cargo and another for crew. The "DC-3" space shuttle was that.

Instead, to preserve any of it's plans, NASA had to fold in the triumvirate of new spacecraft into one, and that to accomodate the Air Force.

This, in turn, led to the "compromise" design that has plagued the Shuttle since it's inception. fourteen people have died as a result of these compromises, which are namely:

1. Solid rocket boosters. The SS is the only man-rated vehicle of any nation to use SRB's as a primary boost source.

2. Side-carried "payload" -- namely the Shuttle itself. The original DC-3 design was a top-payload vehicle much like every other manned spaceraft. However, the size of the compromiwe vehicle would have required a booster larger than the Saturn V in order to achieve LEO. This, obviously was not enable, so the side-payload "piggyback" design was created using engines on the payload itself as a source of thrust for the vehicle.

Thus, we have what we have, and it is a flying compromise built by the lwest bidder by a company no longer in business for itself (Boeing acquired North American Rockwell.)

Time for a new shuttle, and one that goes back to the original vision.

RTWFA (2, Informative)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379799)

Read the WHOLE fine article. This is an experiment to test aerodynamics. If successful, they intend to test something with a jet engine. This one is by no means the intended passenger carrying configuration.

Mark Twain's view on it (4, Interesting)

panurge (573432) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379606)

Mark Twain (who was a lot more than the author of Tom Sawyer) was of the view that the perfect way to travel was slowly, on a boat, across the Pacific.

Perhaps our CEOs and salesmen would actually work better if they had slower travel and had to organise their lives and companies in a more structured way. Perhaps they'd have to delegate more? Find local representatives they could trust? Learn to use video conferencing properly? Even make better business decisions.

Yes, I do know this is heresy on slashdot. And you know what? I don't care. Not now I know that Linus uses potty words and my last illusion is broken.

Arrow shaped, hmm (1)

TarryTops (888130) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379618)

Cool but is it tested for aerodynamics?

I hope the Australians are ready for this (1)

suitepotato (863945) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379620)

Am I the only one hearing Men at Work's refrain, "Can you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover..."

I'm not sure what the point of transorbital supersonic transport between Japan and anywhere else is. Is there truly enough intercontinental traffic to support this? I suspect something on the order of personal shuttlepods ala Trek would be more likely to debut before this becomes a going and economically viable and sound concern, thus obviating it.

Great for Japanese national pride, but does it really mean much more than that? What are the real chances this is going to cause any real shift in the ratios regarding their aircraft industry versus ours? I hope it works and all, but I think pushing towars a bigger contribution to the international space travel effort would be better in the long run. OTOH, maybe it will be in the area of transorbital travel.

Re:I hope the Australians are ready for this (1)

nonlnear (893672) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379811)

Yes, there really is enough transpacific traffic for this. The question isn't really about gross traffic volume, but demand for a premium high speed service. And the transpacific market has it in spades. Lots of executive traffic concentrated in a couple large hubs (Tokyo, HK, LA, etc.) I could see making in-person reaction times in the 'same workday' regime easily commanding per seat prices in the $10 000s.

Whether the business case can be made for any one particular solution - i.e. this plane - is a separate issue. I imagine they've come a long way in efficiency from the Concorde, so it might be possible.

Also, the Japanese government probably sees subsidizing this plane as a way to piggyback the development of a Japanese military arerospace programme. It's not easy starting from scratch, and their 50 year moratorium set them a ways back. I'd imagine they're eager to catch up, but haven't cared to push a purely military funding plan. Having commercial interests doing subsidized research seems an easier way of doing things.

Ugh (2, Funny)

mattcurrie (192138) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379634)

Did anyone else read JAXA as AJAX? ~_~

Damn that horrible buzzword. Damn it to hell!

Re:Ugh (1)

Prophet of Nixon (842081) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379707)


X-Prize (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379665)

They've got a long, long way to go before commercial (even unprofitable) viability.

Anyone else notice the price tag (US$10 Mil)?

Revised headline should read:

Japanese Company Fails Bid to Win X-Prize; Japanese Government Picks up Research Tab

USSR did it earlier (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13379686)

Soviets had the first Supersonic aircraft; Tupolev TU-144 []

Concorde was NOT the first supersonic passenger aircraft.

Hmm (1)

pmdata (861264) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379727)

The test follows a three-year hiatus since the first experimental flight of the unmanned aircraft, dubbed the next-generation supersonic transport, prematurely separated from its booster rocket and crashed into the desert.

"We've made some improvements so that won't happen again," Takaaki Akuto, a spokesman for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, said Tuesday in Tokyo.

Gee, I guess having it NOT CRASH would be a good thing. Glad they fixed that issue.

Going faster or going smarter? (3, Interesting)

BucksCountyCycleGeek (893639) | more than 9 years ago | (#13379758)

I honestly think that going faster has its limits - it's no use going faster if you get stovepiped into taking a train to a secondary airport, doing security, then flying to a major airport, then switching to an SST. It just doesn't work.

Point-to-point travel is the future - we may not realize it, but there's a lot of economic activity that goes on in places that aren't well served by the airlines. That's why Southwest is eating everyone's lunch. I'd think it would save more time in the long run to develop "free flight" systems so that air taxis and passenger services could fly people from smaller airports. Now that avionics manufacturers are really getting onto ease of use, flying a plane could become not that much harder than driving a car.

Potentially, "free flight" could be as disruptive as the Internet.

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