Hypersonic startup raises US$16 million after completing engine tests

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Aerospace startup Hermeus has raised a further US$16 million to develop its Mach 5 passenger aircraft after concluding testing of its prototype engine earlier this year.

The Atlanta, USA-based company, which was founded in 2018 will use the funding to ground test the full-scale engine that  will power the company’s first aircraft. Hermeus said it will expand its Atlanta test facility to enable light in-house manufacturing and more test capability and then conduct high-speed wind tunnel testing across a full range of flight speeds, as well as continue to advance the design of its aircraft, with more details to be released in the coming months.

Hermeus began working with the US Air Force and the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate on hypersonic travel in July this year after successfully testing its Mach 5 engine prototype in February. As part of the US$1.5 million contract, the company is looking at how a hypersonic aircraft would integrate into existing aviation infrastructure and preparing test plans to reduce the technical risk associated with these modifications.

​According to Hermeus its engineers designed, built and successfully tested its Mach 5 engine prototype in nine months. The test campaign served as a proof-of-concept for Hermeus’ turbine-based combined cycle engine architecture.

Glenn Case, Hermeus’ chief technical officer said, “Using our pre-cooler technology, we’ve taken an off-the-shelf gas turbine engine and operated it at flight speed conditions faster than the famed SR-71.  In addition, we’ve pushed the ramjet mode to Mach 4-5 conditions, demonstrating full-range hypersonic air-breathing propulsion capability.”

Hermeus said it has targeted a Mach 5 speed for the aircraft because of the maturity of the core technologies, the capability to provide robust flight controls “well beyond Mach 5” and because the materials required are commercially available. The company is billing its supersonic aircraft as capable of flying from New York to London in 90 minutes, with a vision “to connect the world’s cities significantly faster than ever before”.

CEO of Hermeus AJ Piplica said, “We’ve normalized to the speed at which we move about our planet for over half a century. Our goal at Hermeus is to fundamentally and sustainably redefine human connection by accelerating the global transportation network five times over.

“We are pursuing a goal so difficult that it has never been achieved before, and yet so impactful that it is the single most important way we can spend our time.  As we grow, we continue to attract the very best people, diverse in perspective and united in purpose, determined to achieve what some people think is impossible – creating a substantially faster future.”

Hermeus successfully raised seed funding last year from venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, who have backed the company again in a funding round led by Canaan Partners. Rich Boyle, general partner at Canaan said, “Hermeus has consistently hit aggressive milestones on short timelines – anyone familiar with the industry should be impressed by their progress and innovative approach to product iteration.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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