Imagine traveling to far-off destinations in the blink of an eye. Well, not a blink, but at Mach-9 speeds (6,900 mph) that could take you from NYC to Tokyo in an hour.
That’s what Texas-based Venus Aerospace hopes to achieve. Using rotating-detonation propulsion technology that spins an engine at 20,000 rotations per second, the company’s Stargazer aircraft will carry about a dozen passengers at nine times the speed of sound.
Hypersonic is defined as five times the speed of sound (Mach 5). Remember the Concorde? That supersonic jet traveled at Mach 2, a measly 1,535 mph. Lockheed’s SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest aircraft ever built, traveled at Mach 3.2 (2,455 mph).
Venus Aerospace’s rotating-detonation propulsion technology will not only increase speeds dramatically, but it will also burn 20 percent less fuel than a conventional engine. The U.S. Navy has promoted the technology, but a recent test by Venus was the first time using a room-temperature storable propellant, essential for use in aircraft.
The 150,000-pound Stargazer, measuring 150 feet long by 100 feet wide, will take off with conventional jet engines but then transition to rockets once it reaches its flying altitude of 170,000 feet. While not technically on the edge of space, the plane will fly high enough that passengers can see the curve of the Earth.
Venus has been working on the concept since 2020 and has raised $33 million to build the plane. The next step is hypersonic flight testing with a 20-foot drone that will hopefully reach Mach 5. After that, the Stargazer prototype.
Venus isn’t the only company tackling hypersonic flight, however. Sierra Space is building a Dream Chaser, Atlanta-based Hermeus hopes to bring its Mach 5 Quarterhorse to reality, and China’s Space Transportation aims to build a jet that can carry passengers from NYC to Beijing in an hour. Virgin Galactic’s Unity 2 reached Mach 2.47 in 2018.
For those of us who would like to get where we’re going with less time in the air, these sci-fi-sounding concepts can’t come to fruition soon enough.