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Hypersonic flight test planned for tomorrow

Around the world in 80 days is so yesterday. After tomorrow you may be able to do it in a matter of minutes.

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A hypersonic flight is planned for tomorrow to test if an aircraft can travel faster than the speed of sound for more than a few seconds. (YouTube/YouTube)

Around the world in 80 days is so yesterday. After tomorrow you may be able to do it in a matter of minutes.

A hypersonic flight is planned for tomorrow to test just how fast an aircraft can travel. The aircraft will attempt to fly above the Pacific Ocean at 3,600 mph, according to the LA Times. The Times added, "A passenger aircraft traveling at that speed could fly from Los Angeles to New York in 46 minutes."

A mere 46 minutes for a cross-continental flight. That is only 11 minutes longer than the average New Yorker's commute to work, which according to 2009 US census information was just under 35 minutes.

During the test, the aircraft will be attached to a B-52 bomber's wing. According to the Business Standard, the bomber will fly from Edwards to about 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean near Point Mugu. "From there, its high-speed journey at Mach 6 is expected to last only 300 seconds, but that's twice as long as it's ever gone at that speed," the Times added. 

Aerospace engineers noted that harnessing the super-speed technology is crucial to the next generation of missiles, military aircraft, spacecraft — and even passenger planes.

But the test may not go as smoothly as they hope. In August 2011, GlobalPost reported on a failed hypersonic flight test by the US government. The arrow-shaped aircraft was being developed by the US military to fly at 20 times the speed of sound plunged prematurely into the Pacific Ocean during a test flight.

At the time Project manager Air Force Major Chris Schulz believed he knew what went wrong and how to fix it. "Here's what we know: We know how to boost the aircraft to near space. We know how to insert the aircraft into atmospheric hypersonic flight. We do not yet know how to achieve the desired control during the aerodynamic phase of flight. It's vexing; I'm confident there is a solution. We have to find it."

The US government isn't the only one hoping to change travel forever. GlobalPost also interviewed the very eclectic group of inventors and investors hoping to make that 45 minute transcontinental trip a reality. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/120813/hypersonic-flight-test-planned-tomorrow