International aviation group EADS has revealed a concept for a Concorde replacement which could allow travel between Paris and Tokyo within three hours.
The Zero Emission Hyper Sonic Transport (ZEHST) concept, unveiled ahead of the Paris Air Show this week, uses rocket power to transport passengers above the Earth's atmosphere, dramatically cutting flight times.
It is powered by three engine types which would allow it to take off as a normal plane using jet engines, before using rockets to shoot into the outer atmosphere and supersonic "ramjets" when it reaches its cruising altitude, at around 32km.
Passenger jets today travel at an altitude of some 11 km, some 36,000 feet.
With such a high altitude, the aircraft's ground speed would be more than twice that of the now-defunct Concorde, speeding around the planet at Mach 4 - four times the speed of sound, or around 5,000 km/h.
All of the propulsion methods would be green, with the jet engines using biofuels and the rockets using liquid hydrogen and oxygen - according to EADS, all of this technology is in place, although an unmanned prototype is unlikely to appear before 2020.
The final product could be in the skies by 2050, EADS predicts, and although it's anyone's guess as to what Concorde's successor will look like when it is finally produced, the group is reported to believe that the design of the 1960s aircraft remains a strong base.
Boeing, the US rival of EADS-owned Airbus, is also planning a hypersonic jet.
The Paris Air Show runs through June 26 in Paris.
See EADS' ZEHST video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcFtAKwUJkAReuse content