Earlier this week, Atlanta-based aerospace startup Hermeus announced its plans to develop a hypersonic aircraft capable of transporting passengers from New York to London in just ninety minutes at speeds of up to 3,800 miles per hour (6115.5 kilometers per hour).
“We’ve set out on a journey to revolutionize the global transportation infrastructure, bringing it from the equivalent of dialup into the broadband era, by radically increasing the speed of travel over long distances,” Hermeus co-founder and CEO AJ Piplica said in a press release.
The release announced the Seed round, which, in addition to being led by Khosla Ventures, had participation from other private investors, as well.
The May 13 release also announced the advisory board, which includes the likes of former Blue Origin president Rob Meyerson, former Lockheed Martin Skunk Works general manager Rob Weiss, and former FAA associate administrator George Nield, among others.
“Collectively, these advisors help define the Hermeus strategy with respect to safety, markets, technology, and development in order to accelerate innovation in aviation and connect the globe,” said the press release.
As fancy as the idea of a Mach 5-capable commercial aircraft boasting a 4,600-mile range may appear to be, Hermeus says it will be based on current technology and materials; nothing radically out of the ordinary.
“The product’s design enables it to operate with minimal changes to current aviation infrastructure,” says the company website.
Hermeus CEO Skyler Shuford echoed this when he told Ars Technica that the company was not “getting into anything too miraculous,” adding: “We want to do engineering, not science.”
Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla said that not only can the Hermeus aircraft revolutionize commercial aviation with drastically-reduced flight times but it can also have “great societal and economic impact.”
Ars Technica reports that titanium is one of the primary materials that Hermeus plans to use on the super-plane, while the “propulsion system will be powered by a turbine-based, combined-cycle engine.”
Shuford also told the website that it would take around five years to develop a demonstrator vehicle capable of Mach 5 speeds and another three to five years to produce one for commercial operations.
Hermeus, by the way, is not the first company to go the hypersonic way, what with Boeing HorizonX, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems coming together last year to invest $37.3 million in Oxfordshire, England-based aerospace company Reaction Engines, which is working on its own version of a hypersonic propulsion system.
Also, Spokane, Washington-based startup HyperSciences has used SeedInvest, an online platform for equity-based crowdfunding, to raise $9.2 million on a ram accelerator system that can be used to launch a projectile at 6,700 mph, about nine times the speed of sound.
Last year, NASA awarded a $125,000 grant to the startup to develop a “robust, cost effective, automated hypersonic launch system and encapsulated projectile bus capable of delivering small payloads to altitudes as high as 100Km.”
Hermeus was founded as recently as last year by AJ Piplica (CEO), Glenn Case (Chief Technical Officer), Mike Smayda (Chief Product Officer) and Skyler Shuford (Chief Product Officer), all of whom have previously worked for Atlanta-based Generation Orbit, where they helped develop the Air Force’s X-60A hypersonic rocket plane.
Smayda and Shuford also have the distinction of having worked at SpaceX – Elon Musk’s Hathorne, California-based spaceflight company.
The company recently opened offices at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Georgia, just north-east of state capital Atlanta.
Hermeus describes itself as a “startup developing a Mach 5 aircraft with the goal of massively reduced flight times and increased safety for long haul, business class air travel.”
The company’s Board of Advisors includes:
o Rob Meyerson – Former President, Blue Origin
o Rob Weiss – Former EVP/GM Lockheed Martin Skunk Works
o Keith Masback – Former CEO, US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation; Director, Source Operations, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; Director, ISR Integration, US Army.
o Katerina Barilov – Founder, Sparkplug capital+ and Managing Director, Shearwater Aero Capital
o Dr. George Nield – Former Associate Administrator, FAA
o Mitch Free – Founder and CEO, ZYCI and Former Director of Technical Operations, Northwest Airlines