Catapults are introduced in the second-generation airport designs and during renovation of the first generation in order to minimize the required installed thrust aboard hypersonic liners. Requirements for takeoff thrust acceleration create a weight penalty for the precisely designed hyper-liners, which are extremely sensitive to each gram of structural mass in terms of economic return. By offloading propulsion and fuel weight to the catapult, the designers of hypersonic airliners see the new technology come into its own.
At roughly the same time, the International Aerospace Development Organization devises a new configuration for travel in which passengers and the vehicles that carry them are forever spared the necessity to match up on sprawling airport gate complexes designed to accommodate the outside dimensions of immense aircraft. Replacing the outmoded model is the current pod-based scheme in which passengers board containers that mate with airframes at a docking facility. Electrical, signal, and environmental connections are made automatically as the two are mated. Pods are self-contained escape and rescue elements in the event of catastrophic airframe mechanical failure. Ballistic parachutes lower the pods to the ground or to a water landing, where the pods can remain afloat indefinitely until rescue can be effected. Synthetic vision forms an uninterrupted lining along the walls and overhead of the interior of each pod and provides a passenger selectable image that can follow each person's visual cone if they choose to move about the cabin at cruise; most travelers don't choose to, preferring to absorb information on the region they'll be visiting by means of multimedia "fountains," a term that describes the high rate of transfer and intensity of experience.
The Neil A. Armstrong Intercontinental Airport, located well west of San Diego, takes the traditional offshore architecture to a whole new level, recognizing the fact that these airports have increasingly become destinations in their own right. Their enormous, durable structure provides a natural site for a wide variety of service industries unrelated to the international air travel that was their original purpose. Hotels, free trade zone giga-malls, communication and entertainment headquarters, and marine adventure services, to cite just a few examples, abound at Armstrong and others now on the drawing boards. Travelers and visitors to Armstrong enjoy many levels of underwater viewing spaces, shops, theaters, and arcades. When the Google Network broadcasts its Millennium Holiday Special in 2100 from the Leroy Chiao International Airport serving the island complex of the International Space Elevator, with hologram repeaters projecting the show in the skies over every major city of population two million or more, the company makes ratings history with a 97 share.
The rebounding of biomass that gathered speed after 2025 altered so many historic assumptions about transportation, energy management, and the global environment that government and industry were able to draw up a future scenario from a clean sheet of paper. The drive toward dramatic increases in fuel efficiency for surface transport-wheeled vehicles-yields to new calculations that assume the elimination of all paved surfaces needed to support wheels and the benefits that accrue if transportation becomes almost entirely airborne. Managed by a series of massive information nodes located approximately equidistant around the globe, the global airspace system represents the unlocking of personal, commercial, and industrial transport from centuries of surface-bound limitations.
The fliers are never sold but instead leased to users so that the manufacturer retains perpetual control of the vehicles in order to track them , recall them if necessary, and eventually to scrap them when their time is up. There are no antique fliers for collectors to restore, but on the other hand, there are no ancient-and dangerous-clunkers plying the airways either.
The creation of rugged, durable composite materials with some qualities of living tissue provides the basis for extremely lightweight designs that change shape in complex ways to alter their own aerodynamics as well as their physical configuration. Ducts and exhaust outlets appear and disappear. Stub wings extend, retract, and change shape to meet command requirements from the vehicle management system, which is made up of microelectronics embedded throughout the material. Thump it with your fingers and the material resounds like wood, but apply the tiniest electrical signal in the form of packets of code and it responds as adroitly as a big muscle.
The propulsor, with an advanced ceramic composite core, provides lift and forward thrust through variable ducts that morph on command. Endurance of about an hour and a half between fuelings is sufficient for almost any typical trip.
A parachute recovery system canopy is embedded within the outermost layer of the craft's upper surface at the time of manufacture. While this part of the system is a permanent part of the craft throughout its service life of roughly 20 years, the command module and activators are test and replaced about once every five years or so, depending upon local conditions.
Roads, highways, the interstate system-all infrastructure related to the wheeled culture of the automobile-is gradually removed and replaced with either greenspace or buildings. As paved surface withers across the landscape, groundwater and major aquifiers are replenished by the improved percolation of rain water.