Yesterday, a NASA (unpiloted) aircraft testing out its experimental scramjet engine hit a speed of Mach 9.7. To give that a little perspective, the Concorde generally cruised right around a meager Mach 2 and the SR-71 ran around Mach 3.

The upside of this research is a good one…flight from New York to Tokyo or Sydney in 2-3 hours. But then, you’d also be traveling at 100 times faster than you’d travel in your car on the highway…and over 10 times the speed of a 747. A crash at hypersonic speeds like that could be devastating. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops (I’ve been keeping an eye on it for a while) and see what kind of safety hoops it’ll have to jump through before going commercial.

New York Times x-43A article
Popular Mechanics Hyper-X article (2001)