Pioneering Our Hypersonic Future
Making faster air travel possible
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What if you could go from New York to London in 90 minutes?
That’s the vision for hypersonic aircraft startup Hermeus.
Hermeus is pioneering hypersonic travel which refers to speeds of Mach 5 and above (or five times faster than the speed of sound).
Hermeus just completed a $100M Series B round led by Sam Altman, and joined by Founders Fund and Khosla Ventures, amongst others.
This financing will help them complete their first test flight in 2023.
A Brief History of High-Speed Aircrafts
Developing a commercial hypersonic aircraft has never been done before.
But hypersonic travel has…
The fastest any aircraft with an engine has ever flown is Mach 9.6. A record set by NASA’s unmanned aircraft X-43 in 2004.
The fastest a manned aircraft has ever flown is Mach 6.7 in 1967.
In terms of passenger planes, the Concorde was one of only two supersonic planes to have ever flown and flew at Mach 2.04. It stopped flying two decades ago due to regulatory and safety reasons.
Hypersonic Travel is Scientifically Proven
Hypersonic travel has been achieved as noted above. The issue is engineering it.
Hermeus will be combining two previously traditional technologies for their Chimera engine:
A turbojet, which is similar to what airliners use, and a ramjet, a type of engine that only works at supersonic speeds and above.
Hermeus isn’t reinventing the wheel here on each engine alone. But they are developing a novel way to combine the two to function in harmony.
The turbojet will be used for slower speeds during take-off and landing.
The ramjet will be used from speeds Mach 3 until Mach 5.
The company plans to test their Chimera engine throughout 2022.
Initial Small Autonomous Aircraft (2023)
The Quarterhorse is the first aircraft developed by Hermeus.
While it will only travel short distances, hence the name, it will help validate their approach.
It will travel at hypersonic speeds, be autonomous or remotely piloted, and also fully reusable. Quarterhorse will be the world’s fastest aircraft by the time the test campaign is complete.
Hermeus signed a $60M deal with the U.S. Air Force to test their Quarterhorse aircraft.
Below is a demo of Quarterhorse in 2021.
Hermeus is on track to fly Quarterhorse in 2023.
Path Toward Commercial
It is the early days of Hermeus, but they have presented a roadmap to developing a passenger aircraft.
After validation of the Quarterhorse, the company will develop a mid-sized autonomous aircraft known as Darkhorse.
Darkhorse is currently in stealth but plans are for it to be released by 2025.
In terms of a passenger aircraft from Hermeus, the current timeline is 2029.
Building hard things takes time. If this gets built by then, it will be revolutionary.
Until then, the company will be de-risking their tech for national security challenges for customers with Quarterhorse and Darkhorse. This will ensure that America and our allies have the fastest planes in the world to defend democracy and freedom.
Groundbreaking innovation is never certain. It is willed into the world by determined people who keep trying set back after set back.
People who win don’t do it for the fame but for pushing our species forward.
This is best represented by the insane drive for Elon Musk to will reusable rockets into the world.
Hermeus is now in a similar position.
They have now raised a similar amount of money SpaceX did when they achieved Falcon 9 reusability.
Now Hermeus has the responsibility to demonstrate the commercialization of hypersonic travel. And to do so quickly with relatively low amounts of capital.
Before their $100M Series B round, they had only raised a $16M Series A round. But they have executed like crazy.
“Within the last 12 months Hermeus has built out a 110,000 sq ft. factory, transformed an open field into a test facility, conducted 100+ engine tests, designed and constructed a prototype of its first aircraft, tested a full-scale proprietary Mach 5 engine – Chimera, and more than doubled the size of the team, all for less than $15 million.”
Ultimately, engineering and science don’t build companies. People do.
The emphasis that Hermeus puts on culture and their team is huge.
Their website is full with images of their team members doing the deep the engineering work.
I think this demonstrates a lack of ego by the management team. Showing that it’s the people who build the aircraft that matter first.
The company has three main premises it operates by:
Vertically Integrate: Own the development value chain and schedule
Drive to Test Quickly: Avoid solving the wrong problems
Iterate: crawl-walk-run fashion
Hermeus also has a YouTube channel so people can connect with the team directly.
Inspired by a Hypersonic Future
Most people have probably never heard of the word hypersonic.
Hypersonic travel has the possibility to shrink the planet and make the world more accessible.
I imagine a day, 10 years from now, where I could leave from LA and arrive in Tokyo in less then 3 hours.
That future inspires me. That’s a world I want to live in.
Proud that the people at Hermeus are working hard to build that world.
Thank you for reading! 🌱