(Image: Reaction Engines)

Betcha-by-golly-by-wowza, the future of tomorrow really is today. On Saturday, Sunrise reported that a “hypersonic space-plane that can transport passengers from Australia to the UK in four hours could be up and running in 10 years’ time”.

The jet, which is being developed by British firm Reaction Engines, would be powered by hydrogen and travel at five times the speed of sound (or 6000km per hour). Sunrise discussed it with Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews, who said it was “absolutely possible that we will be able to fly from Australia to London in four hours”.

All of this is, obviously, incredible. And it was equally incredible roughly two weeks ago, when it was reported by news.com.au, Vice and The Sun. Or in March this year, when BBC reported on the Sabre hypersonic engine being ready to enter “a key testing phase”. At that stage, we were still reeling from the news, in June 2018, that Boeing had “unveiled a new hypersonic 6400km per hour jet that could fly from New York to London in just two hours and from Australia to Europe in less than five”.

Personally, I didn’t think I had any excitement left after the Australian Financial Review’s March 2018 report on the The University of Queensland’s Centre for Hypersonics SPARTAN project, which could give us commercial flights from Sydney to London in just two hours.

The last time travel news had gotten us that excited would have to be in May 2016, when it was reported that a two-hour Sydney to London flight was on track for a 2018 launch. This, coming a mere six months after we heard getting from Sydney to London in four hours had gotten another step closer. And look… that one was hard to get too excited about, given the fact that in 2011 we were being promised a hypersonic plane could fly Sydney to London in 49 minutes.

We here in the Crikey bunker have nothing but sympathy for journos desperately trying to fill the slate with fun technology stories over a long weekend, but maybe we should wait until something actually, you know, happens?

Peter Fray

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