Rolls Royce developing green engine for supersonic civilian air travel

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Rolls Royce has started working with Boom Supersonic, an aerospace company building the world’s fastest civil aircraft, to explore a propulsion system for Overture, their flagship supersonic passenger aircraft.

The goal of the new agreement announced on Thursday in Denver, Colorado in the US, is to work together to identify the propulsion system that would complement Boom’s Overture airframe.

Founded in 2014, Boom is the first commercial airplane manufacturer to commit to a carbon-neutral flight test program and to build sustainability into its entire aircraft program.

Boom is aiming to usher in a new era of supersonic passenger flight - that exceeds the speed of sound (Mach 1) -- utilizing the latest aerospace technology.

“We share a strong interest in supersonic flight and in sustainability strategies for aviation with Boom,” said Simon Carlisle, Director of Strategy – Civil Aerospace, Rolls-Royce.

“We've had a series of valuable collaborations and co-locations with Rolls-Royce over the past years to lay the groundwork for this next phase of development,” said Blake Scholl, Boom founder and CEO.

According to Rolls Royce the joint project will be underpinned by its “commitment to sustainability, ensuring that the benefits of supersonic flight can be felt while still achieving our environmental goals.”

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“We’re working together to identify the propulsion systems that would complement Boom’s Overture airframe and will explore whether an existing engine design could be adapted for supersonic flight.”

For aviation buffs, supersonic travel synonymous with the Concorde, which was a technological marvel of its time. It was powered by four Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 Anglo-French afterburning turbojet engines. They were state of the art when designed, but Overture, according to Rolls Royce “could benefit from the advances in engine technology we’ve made over the years. We’ll work together to explore options for the most efficient propulsion system possible.”

When it comes to materials, while Concorde was constructed of aluminium, Overture will use carbon composites which are not only lighter, but more easily shaped into aerodynamically optimal forms.

The project will also explore the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) further so that supersonic passenger travel will be compatible with a net-zero carbon future.