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Supersonic Transport (SST)

JAXA aims at the accomplishment of technical targets, which play key roles in the realization of small supersonic passenger aircraft (Mach 1.6, 3650 passengers, 70 ton class takeoff weight, cruising distance greater than 3,500 nm (about 6,300 km)) and the presentation of the airframe concept.

Currently, airplanes fly at about Mach 0.8, which is markedly slower than the speed of sound. Japan is distant from Europe and the United States. It takes more than 12 hours to fly the distance.

Flying faster than sound, for example, at twice its speed, then the time for flying would be halved and the flight time from Japan to Europe or the United States would be about 6 hours. If the travelling time were shortened, economic activities would be bolstered through increased opportunities for business and tourism. Moreover, measures against disaster could be taken quickly, thereby ushering in a safer and more affluent society.

If the flight time were cut to less than 6 hours, then the increasing frequency of hazards, nuisances, and ailments such as economy-class syndrome could be prevented. Perhaps most importantly, everyone would be able to enjoy travel more comfortably than ever. These airplanes that enable high-speed transportation, flying faster than the speed of sound, are called supersonic civil transport.

Although realization of hypersonic airplanes is highly anticipated, supersonic civil transport successors to the Concorde, which was retired in 2003, have not emerged. Shortcomings of the Concorde included poor fuel consumption and extremely high operational costs. In addition, because sonic booms are created, supersonic flight over land was not permitted. Its routes were severely restricted, which is another reason that business success eluded the Concorde.

Nevertheless, momentum for the development of business jet class supersonic civil transport increased considerably in the 2010s. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) began deliberation of international standards for sonic booms.

For Japan to establish a firm footing in the design and production of next-generation supersonic civil transport developed through international joint development, JAXA will demonstrate the high technical potential of aircraft technology owned by Japan through presentation of a unique airframe concept and verification of specialty technologies.

Overall length 47.8 m
Breadth 23.6 m
Total height 7.3 m
Area of main wing 175 m²
Aspect ratio 3.0
All-up weight 70 ton
Engine 15 ton twin-engine
Number of passengers 3650
Cruising speed Mach 1.6
Cruising distance More than 3500 nm

During flight experiments in 20022005 using NEXST-1, a small supersonic experimental plane, JAXA demonstrated a technology to reduce air resistance and to improve fuel consumption efficiency. The D-SEND project first phase test was conducted in 2011. The second phase test was conducted in 2013, in an attempt to verify the concept of an airframe design technology for sonic boom abatement. As described, key technologies will be acquired to meet the requirements of supersonic passenger aircraft and to present JAXA's original low sonic boom design concept model, "Quieter supersonic civil transport".

The "Drop test for Simplified Evaluation of Non-symmetrically Distributed sonic boom (D-SEND)" is a project for the demonstration and evaluation of the design concept of airframe configuration for reduction of "sonic booms", which is one critical agenda item for the realization of future supersonic civil transport. We intend to use flight experiments to demonstrate the possibility of a "low-sonic boom design concept", and to acquire measurement methods for aerial sonic booms, which might contribute to the ongoing deliberation of international standards for sonic booms of next-generation supersonic aircraft.

With supersonic civil transport such as the Concorde, it is said that a 1% increase in air resistance will eliminate the capacity sufficient to carry three passengers. Air resistance has a profound influence on fuel consumption.

In NEXST-1 (small supersonic experimental plane), the aircraft configuration was designed so that fuel consumption would be improved. An important hurdle for the realization of supersonic civil transport, economic efficiency, and therefore better fuel consumption efficiency was demonstrated using flight experiments. The "NEXST-1" flight experiments took place in 2002 and 2005 at Woomera experimental yard, Australia, achieving air resistance reduction of as much as 13% compared with that of the Concorde.



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