A group of Chinese researchers is on the brink of creating a massive electromagnetic railway capable of launching hypersonic aircraft the size of a Boeing 747 into space. This groundbreaking project, known as Teng Yun, has been in progress since 2016, with scientists confident that a technological breakthrough is within reach.

The development entails an accelerating system that utilizes powerful electromagnetic forces to propel the hypersonic aircraft to speeds twice as fast as the speed of sound – around 1.6 mach or nearly 2000 km/h. Once launched, a colossal 50-ton spacecraft measuring over 39 meters long will be able to utilize its own engines to reach orbit.

If successful, this technology has the potential to significantly reduce the costs associated with launching cargo into space. This innovation is likely to pique the interest of aerospace leaders like NASA and SpaceX, who have yet to develop large-scale electromagnetic launch systems.

Chinese aerospace corporation CASIC is currently using a unique test facility in Datun city to conduct trials on the rail-spacecraft. The 1.9-kilometer vacuum track, initially designed for testing “levitating” transport, is now ideal for accelerating heavy objects to speeds of up to 1000 km/h. The plan is to extend the track to 60 km in the future, achieving a top speed of 5000 km/h.

While previous attempts by US NASA and the US Navy to create electromagnetic launch systems and hypersonic aircraft in the 1990s were mostly unsuccessful due to technical complexities and funding constraints, Teng Yun stands out as one of the most advanced and ambitious initiatives of its kind.

Despite various technical challenges remaining, such as the optimization of aerodynamic design and engine layout for the hypersonic spacecraft, researchers are determined to surmount these obstacles and bring the project to fruition.

/Reports, release notes, official announcements.