Travelling at the Speed of HIKARI*
Lunch in Tokyo, breakfast in Paris…same day… in that order!
Is it Possible?
The HIKARI project has brought together all the hypersonic initiatives in Europe and Japan to drive the convergence of their concepts and roadmaps. Thanks to the expertise of its 16 partners from industry, research centers and academia, it has derived a common path towards a joint design for high speed air transport and ultimately towards joint flight testing.
The market analysis and high level technical trades have shown that the most promising vehicle to address high speed passenger transport would be a ~14000km range ~ Mach 5 aircraft, with high performance levels to ensure affordable ticket prices. The market capture could then exceed 20% and allow sustainable operations of a worldwide fleet of more than 200 aircraft by 2040+.
To accompany the market growth and master the risk associated with such a development, an incremental approach is recommended, starting first with a smaller size vehicle (<100 passengers) and progressively moving towards larger aircraft.
Technology wise, the hydrogen fuel, though providing excellent range and cooling capacity, might not be the only alternative to consider, for other fuels (bio liquid hydrocarbons) might provide better overall climate/performance characteristics.
Regarding the energy and thermal optimization, and the propulsion, the technology progresses accomplished within HIKARI, both on the modelling side and on the demonstration side provide credible building blocks to the future aircraft joint concept. Furthermore, these technologies offer real synergies with other industries, and promising short term applications.
HIKARI has shown how the Europe-Japan partnership could allow achieving such high ambitions as defining the guidelines and roadmaps towards future high speed air transport. This fruitful outcome allows considering a natural next step for this cooperation, in order to achieve a joint design following the HIKARI guidelines, and to prepare joint flight demonstrations following the HIKARI roadmap.
The results have been made possible thanks to the strong support from the European Commission and METI.
*(HIKARI means Light in Japanese)
The initial observation who laid the foundation of HIKARI is that, even with aviation craving for growth and disruptive progress and so many research initiatives in high speed transport, passengers traveling routinely onboard a high speed airplane is still a long way ahead. There are two major hindrances to the emergence of this product: the first one are development costs and risks associated to such a program, the second is the technology readiness level of its building bricks.
To reduce risks and share costs, HIKARI federates all the hypersonic initiatives in Europe and Japan (Figure 1.1) to converge on common design goals, and benefit from the huge know-how built over the years by its industrial, research centers and academic partners.
A strong market analysis should comfort the ability for this target design to meet the market expectations.
To address the technology readiness issue, HIKARI should pursue research in three key critical areas for high speed transport: thermal and energy, propulsion and environment, and should derive a joint technology maturation path towards flight experimentations.