Flying in the stratosphere

Title of the research project 

STRATOFLY - Stratospheric Flying Opportunities for High-Speed Propulsion Concepts

Scientific area 

Space Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Economy


STRATOFLY studies the feasibility of high-speed passenger stratospheric flight. Technological, environmental and economic factors, that allow the sustainability of new air space’s exploitation, are taken into account, drastically reducing transfer time, emissions and noise, and guaranteeing the required safety levels. In addition, STRATOFLY represents  the first step towards future reusable launchers.

Description of the research project 

The stratosphere is the atmosphere layer higher than the breathable troposphere and its extension goes up to an altitude of 50 Km. The exploitation of this space could become necessary because the number of passengers transported by airplane could have a six-fold increase by 2050.

STRATOFLY research project has five main objectives:

  1. To drastically decrease the transfer time of long range civil flights
  2. To identify new high-speed (hypersonic) trajectories in unexploited air spaces (stratosphere)
  3. To decrease noise and emissions, evaluating the climate impact and guaranteeing at the same time required safety standards for passenger transport
  4. To evaluate the economic sustainability of the future operability of hypersonic vehicles
  5. To increase the maturity level of enabling technologies for future reusable launchers

The research topic is highly multidisciplinary and combines technological and operative issues. Crucial technological issues for the success of the hypersonic vehicle are the integration of innovative propulsion systems, unconventional structural configurations and systems for the thermal and energy management. Fundamental operative issues are the reduction of emissions, noise and the sustainability of unexplored trajectories, guaranteeing the safety levels necessary for passenger transport. STRATOFLY thus includes non-technological issues that are of utmost importance for the future of civil passenger transport in the stratosphere: the life cycle costs estimation of the vehicle, the market analysis, human factors related to the public consensus, safety and airworthiness regulations.

Impact on society 

Europe has the long term goal of maintaining and extending the industrial leadership of hypersonic flight, reducing the environmental impact and guaranteeing the required safety standards for passenger transport. Within STRATOFLY the emissions of different types of propellant and the generation of noise will be carefully analyzed, to identify those trajectories that better match environmental impact requirements, among the bunch of feasible trajectories from a strictly technical point of view. High speed transport could decrease transfer time by a factor of 3 or 6, depending on speed level and flight route. STRATOFLY will also consider the impact of this new type of flights on passengers physical and psychological health, taking into account flight comfort, sleep-wake rhythms, as well as security issues.

Working group@Polito 

Nicole Viola, Associate Professor, Project Coordinator

Roberta Fusaro, Post-doc researcher

Marco Fioriti, Researcher (RTD-A)

Davide Ferretto, PhD student

Valeria Vercella, Post-doc researchers

National and international partners

Institut Von Karman De Dynamique Des Fluides, Belgium

Stichting Nationaal Lucht- En Ruimtevaartlaboratorium, The Nederlands

Centro Italiano Ricerche Aerospaziali Scpa, Italy

Deutsches Zentrum Fuer Luft - Und Raumfahrt Ev, Germany

Office National d'Etudes et de Recherches Aerospatiales, France

Centre National de La Recherche Scientifique Cnrs, France

Totalforsvarets Forskningsinstitut, Sweden

Technische Universitat Hamburg-Harburg, Germany

Fundacion de la Ingenieria Civil De Galicia, Spain

STRATOFLY project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 769246

  • Budget: 4.000.000 euro
  • Start date: 1/06/2018
  • End date: 30/11/2020