Around the world in two hours

(Photograph) - Imagine flying from London to Sydney - more than 10,000 miles - in two hours. It sounds like a flight of fancy, but international experiments are bringing the dream closer while highlighting the thrilling side of science. The key is the scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet engines) which may one day power aircraft capable of travelling at more than seven times the speed of sound. As these pictures show, a Japanese attempt to make an unmanned scramjet work failed spectacularly in Australia in July, but a team from the University of Queensland claimed success just a fortnight later. Their success could lead to commercial airline use and NASA using planes like the artist's impression (left inset) to get payloads into orbit without the expense of a space shuttle launch.

Photograph by AP

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