Although Germany does not have an official hypersonic program, the technology under testing also applies to hypersonic aircraft. “The hypersonic community would like to develop a hypersonic aerospace plane that can replace conventional rocket launches into space,” notes Chris Goyne, director of the University of Virginia's Aerospace Research Lab. The low-cost Shefex faceted design shows promise “because developing a fully-functioning hypersonic aerospace plane will be expensive, initially,” he adds.
The sharp edges face challenges though, notes Sean O'Byrne, a physicist at Australia's University of New South Wales. “They allow for better aerodynamics—which is very desirable at high speed and altitude where lift is considerably lower than for conventional aircraft. But it means greater heating near the sharp edges, which poses greater challenges for the materials scientists and engineers designing the airframe.”
Johan Steelant, an aerothermodynamicist at the European Space Agency, says an edge-led design would have the effect of enlarging the “cross-range,” or ability to reach long distances to the left or right, meaning a reentry vehicle would have the possibility of returning to Earth at any time.