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Japan and NASA team up for SuperConcorde

Scramjet up the JAXA

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Japan's space agency JAXA has confirmed it will start full-scale development of a passenger plane based on scramjet technology. The Japanese are courting NASA's collaboration on the project, which could bear some hypersonic fruit by 2025.

The two agencies will meet this June to discuss how to build the heir to Concorde, Japanese business sheet Nihon Keizai reports. R&D on the sound barrier-busting craft will weigh in at “several hundred” billion Yen, according to the Nikkei.

JAXA spokesman Kiyotaka Yashiro confirmed: "In the future, we think we need some kind of cooperation with NASA."

Contrary to reports that Boeing has already been selected to build the chassis, he said June's meeting will be a “first step” toward the jet design.

JAXA has been pursuing scramjets for some time, though tests in the Australian desert have focused on understanding the basics of the technology. The trials have suffered from persistent gremlins, including a high-profile launch at the end of March when the nose cone failed to jettison as planned.

Doubling up with the NASA team is seen as an effort to mitigate the risks. The US suffered its own scramjet mishap back in 2001.

Yashiro said: "Every developed country is doing some kind of research, the US, Europe and Russia. International cooperation is essential." The UK defence spin out QinetiQ is involved in the HyShot project.

Japan's cooperative overtures echo the taxpayer-funded engineering entente cordiale that gave birth to Concorde in the 1960s. The loss-making gin palace was pulled from service in 2003 after crashing on take off from Charles De Gaulle airport, killing 113.

It is claimed that a scramjet-based passenger craft would offer similar airspeed to Concorde, but with much greater fuel efficiency and just one per cent of the ear-bleeding noise. Scramjets work by passively compressing air into the combustion chamber. Conventional jets have to slow the air down to use its oxygen. ®

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