Sub-Orbital Flight: Justfly Says The Sky Isn’t Necessarily The Limit

While many aircraft builders are trying to find new and improved ways of decreasing flight times and increasing efficiency, there is a movement in the tech community to move beyond the 32,000 feet that aircraft traditionally occupy. While many confuse sub-orbital flight as a publicity stunt for celebrities to float for five minutes inside an aircraft cabin, it could actually be the future of commercial flight according to online travel company JustFly.

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First off, why sub-orbital flight? Well first things first, flight times would decrease dramatically. We’re not talking by a quarter or a half here. Moscow, Russia to New York City in an hour, London, UK to Sydney, Australia in a little over two hours. For some people it takes this long just to get to work. That’s why the potential is so amazing when it comes to flying beyond the limits a regular aircraft. So, how does it work?

Sub-orbital flight is flying just inside the thermosphere. What is so special about this chunk of our atmosphere? The gravity there is drastically lower, significantly decreasing drag and making previously unimagined speeds possible. According to JustFly’s review this decrease in drag can lead to speeds of up to eight times faster than a conventional jetliner. If you’re thinking this means you’ll need to be in top-notch health to survive the trip, think again. While a passenger will face more restrictions than someone taking a normal flight, one would not need to be a professional athlete to survive the riggers of the g-forces encountered in the thermosphere.

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In terms of who is pioneering this technology, one needs to only look at Virgin. Virgin, more specifically Virgin Galactic according to JustFly, has already flown test flights at this altitude. While these have generally been for space tourists, people looking to feel a sense of weightlessness, the technology is there to turn these space tourism flights, into commercial travel flights. Another company, X-Cor, is also looking to launch their sub-orbital flight service within the next two years.

So, what’s the catch? Cost. These flights thus far have been estimated to cost anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000 each way, limiting the market for these types of flights to the extremely rich. While sub-orbital flight is still a long ways away from having an effect on the traditional marketplace, as technology improves and traditional carriers begin to see value, price swill decrease to more palatable levels.

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