Experts in the field believe there is potential for a two hour flight from Sydney to London in the near future. How? Suborbital flight.
Within the next decade, commercial flights might become unrecognisable thanks to advances in suborbital flight, according to research from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
“Commercial suborbital space flights are now available for tourism and scientific research, and are ultimately anticipated to mature into extremely fast point-to-point travel, e.g. London to Sydney in less than two hours,” according to the report.
The CAA is currently funding medical studies into the effects of suborbital travel on potential travellers and has stated that it may be possible in the near future as most “physiological responses are likely to be benign for most passengers,” according to the CAA’s medical lead for flight, Dr Ryan Anderton.
However, it isn’t quite ready yet as the report states: “Just as for air travel, a strong foundational knowledge of fundamental flight-related physiology is required to inform medical decision-making and maximise safe access to suborbital flights.
“Suborbital acceleration profiles are generally well tolerated but are not physiologically inconsequential.”
The problem is that during takeoff, those aboard would experience G-force four times that of Earth’s gravity, known as 4G. That lasts for about 20-30 seconds, no real problems there. During landing, G-forces will peak at 6G for 10-15 seconds. Above 5G, those aboard (including the pilots) are at risk of blacking out due to the forces pushing blood out their heads.
Study author, Dr Ross Pollock, told the Daily Mail that changing the position of the chair is a good way to stave off the worst effects.
“By changing the position of the chair you change the direction the G goes through the body. When the chair is upright you get a lot of G-force going from the head to the feet.
“This in effect pushes the blood away from your head and eyes down towards your legs, therefore, you do not have enough oxygen reaching those parts of the body and your vision changes and potentially you can lose consciousness.”
Suborbital flights are defined as those that have the ability to enter space, but not the sufficient velocity to stay there. Orbital flights by contrast have the ability to enter and stay in space, like space stations or satellites.
You can already jump on a suborbital flight like those offered by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, but that will set you back at least £350,000 (~$657,000 AUD). However, regulators have predicted that prices will soon lower, eventually becoming broadly accessible.