When you think about NASA, what pops into your head? For most people, it’s rocket ships, spacecraft, and mankind’s exploration of the universe. It’s a reasonable answer. The Apollo Program was a pinnacle of engineering and design, inspiring multiple generations of aerospace professionals — including the Aerion team. Compelled to watch every space launch as a child, our CEO Tom Vice, calls the Apollo-era NASA “incredible; filled with courageous people who showed what can happen when we take risks to benefit humanity.”
Yet, many people forget the “A” in NASA also stands for aeronautics, and it is this focus on flight closer to the Earth that has led the world’s leading aerospace agency to form an exciting new partnership with Aerion Supersonic.
NASA is keenly interested in the future of supersonic flight. As Aerion works towards finalizing the design and production of the AS2® Supersonic Business Jet (SBJ), the agency has been hard at work on its own new supersonic jet, the X-59. This experimental aircraft will act as a testbed for NASA’s research on supersonic airframes and equipment.
But Aerion and the NASA Langley Research Center have set their sights on far faster aircraft than the AS2® and the X-59. Aerion and the Langley Research Center are bringing together their considerable talents to conduct a joint R&D study with a singular focus: accelerating commercialization of ultra-high-speed (or “high-Mach”) and supersonic flight to accelerate point-to-point travel for those of us who don’t get from place to place via fighter jets.
As compared to the subsonic jets of today, the AS2® SBJ is already a high-speed aircraft that will cruise to destinations at speeds above Mach 1 (almost 1,000mph) while staying whisper quiet, thanks to Boomless Cruise™ technology. But the joint study with NASA will focus on next generation technology to enable “high Mach” cruising in the range of Mach 3 to Mach 5, approaching hypersonic flight.
Though seemingly out of this world, Aerion’s partnership with NASA didn’t come out of nowhere. In fact, the company has worked with the agency on supersonic flight technology in a relationship stretching back to 2012. The expansion of this partnership promises to generate valuable data and technology research for both Aerion and NASA.
Vice recently commented on the collaboration, saying: “At Aerion, our vision is to build a future where humanity can travel between any two points on our planet within three hours. This partnership enables the development of technologies that will help realize such ultra-high-speed point-to-point global mobility solutions.” He added, “This endeavor will also improve United States’ competitiveness in efforts to produce technically feasible and commercially viable passenger aircraft for high Mach point-to-point travel.”
In the interim, the Langley Research Center and Aerion will work together to study the special challenges airplanes experience when cruising at high Mach speeds. The teams will explore the suitability of different propulsion systems and thermal management technologies designed to handle travel at such high speeds. The research group will also focus on integrated power systems and cabin technology. After all, it isn’t useful to be able to fly at Mach 5 if you need to wear a high-tech flight suit just to survive the trip.
Ultimately, this research is critical to Aerion’s goal of bringing the world closer together. As Carl Sagan notes in his famous book Pale Blue Dot, and as NASA proves with every launch, borders aren’t visible from space. They also start to blur when supersonic air travel shortens the distance between people. Or as Vice explained in a recent Forbes profile, “When all of us can get to any location on Earth within three hours, we can build empathy and connections across cultures, something we sorely need as a species.”
As Aerion enters the pre-production phase with the AS2® SBJ, its collaboration with NASA will enhance the work already underway on the company’s next generation, high-Mach passenger jet, the AS3™. This is another key step in maintaining Aerion’s focus on sustainability whilst shortening travel times to bring the world and its citizens closer together.
It’s no secret airlines cater to their most affluent customers, from showers and spas 39,000 feet into the sky to expanded business class seating. But what if they could go beyond these luxuries, offering something truly special — and not just to the rich? Equipped with a fleet of supersonic jets from Aerion Supersonic, airlines can soon defy passengers’ wildest expectations. How? By giving them back hours on the ground they would otherwise spend in the air. After all, there is no greater extravagance than returning time to the rushed.
At present, the airline industry’s innovations primarily center on comfort. Lufthansa’s latest take on the business class concept, debuting this year in the airline’s Boeing 777-9 aircraft, provides passengers with enough space the cabin could easily be mistaken for a small apartment in New York City. Luxury Travel Magazine calls it an “incomparably upscale, healthy and relaxing flight experience.”
Of course, many other airlines are also in the race to impress customers with high-class offerings. But contemporary luxury travel doesn’t end with the size and configuration of the passenger’s seat. Airlines also compete to provide their clientele with amenities kits featuring the finest brands on Earth. For example, Emirates Airlines provides its first-class passengers a case containing extravagant products by Bulgari, including perfume.
Yet for all the allure of the major airlines’ seating configurations and amenities, they are still not providing passengers with the ultimate flying experience. This can only be achieved with Aerion Supersonic’s AS2® Supersonic Business Jet (SBJ). No matter how impressive the accommodations or service on a subsonic jet, it can never provide the true benefit of a supersonic jet — namely, the ability to cruise at speeds over 1,000 mph, reaching destinations many hours earlier than conventional travel.
Passengers will delight in added time to spend with family and friends, or advancing their business interests. This is the promise of supersonic travel.
Still, it should be noted, Aerion believes there needn’t be a tradeoff between comfort and speed. Yes, the AS2® SBJ is the supersonic private jet that can transport customers to their destinations in record times, but those moments in the air can very much unfold enjoyably for passengers.
Our approach to luxury at supersonic speeds follows several basic tenets. First, each supersonic plane’s interior is designed to spec. Also, the AS2® breaks new ground in multiple ways, beginning with interior design. Our approach is to start with a blank sheet of paper. Our team then incorporates as much flexibility and customization into the process as possible. As a result, customers have a seemingly endless amount of options when generating a unique cabin to match their lifestyle. The subsequent aesthetic comes to life using the highest quality materials in our production facilities. Just think: why should your flying experience be based on someone else’s definition of luxury?
At present, economic conditions suggest only a small percentage of even the most affluent travelers are in the market for a private jet. Over time, however, SBJs will become accessible to more flyers. Consider, for example the VCR, the mainstay of every family’s consumer electronics in the 1980s and well into the 90s. When Sony launched the first Betamax VCR in 1977, it carried a price tag of $2,295. (That’s more than $10,000 in 2020 dollars, far from the affordable device they became in just a few short years.)
The AS2® supersonic jet isn’t likely to immediately become a household item like the VCR. However, there are ways a broader segment of the population could experience supersonic flight sooner rather than later. A forward-thinking airline could build a fleet of AS2® SBJs to offer premium service along busy routes. (Also, since we build interiors to spec, the airline can ensure their passengers experience their brand exactly how they intend.)
Certainly, some affluent passengers will be satisfied with existing first-class travel, but a considerable (and ever growing) segment will be eager to embrace the joy of supersonic flight — especially, when they learn the good news. Forget “low boom” supersonic flight. Aerion offers super-silent flight, featuring our “Boomless Cruise™” technology and efficient GE Affinity supersonic engines. When the SBJ passes overhead people below will never experience a window-rattling sonic boom. Plus, it’s whisper-quiet for those in the cabin, too.
But we saved the best for last. Aerion is the first aircraft manufacturer to commit to carbon neutrality. This means the AS2® will not only carry passengers at incredible speeds — but do so with a negative carbon footprint.
Ultimately, Aerion Supersonic is revolutionizing flight by bringing passengers supersonic travel. Our supersonic jet, the AS2, is safe, quiet, environmentally friendly, and delivers a luxurious experience.