Venus Aerospace is testing new engines for the Stargazer, a passenger jet that can reach speeds in of over 11,000 km/h and can make the trip between Madrid and Los Angeles in just over an hour. Travelers will depart from a commercial airport and reach an altitude of 52 kilometers, almost four times higher than that of conventional airline flights.
A number of companies have set out to take up the baton with the next generation of supersonic aircraft. European startup Destinus can reach a speed of Mach 5 (6174) or that of the American Hermeus, with a similar speed. Boom Supersonic, a Denver-based manufacturer, is leading the pack with its Overture, which reaches speeds of 2,100 km/h and already has United Airlines, Japan Airlines and American Airlines as future customers.
Venus is also in the race with its Stargazer, which can reach 11,000 km/h thanks to its powerful in-house rocket engines. A prototype will have dimensions of 30.5 meters wide by 46 meters long, weighing 68,039 kilos and capacity for a maximum of 12 passengers. The company has raised $50 million in funding in the past from private and public investors, which has now been joined by Airbus Ventures, the European aerospace company’s investment arm, for the testing of its engines.
We’re taking it one step at a time. The team continues to make incredible progress.Sassie Duggleby, Aerospace CEO
The company’s founders, CEO Sassie Duggleby and CTO Andrew Duggleby, plan to equip the Stargazer with two types of engines. One will be traditional jet engines that will allow the aircraft to take off from a normal airport, while the other will be rocket engines that will be activated when already far from populated areas to reach speeds of Mach 9 (11,113.2 km/h) and an altitude of 51,816 m (170,000 feet).
The Stargazer features aerodynamics that allow it to glide through the air easily. The design has a flight mode called ‘boost-glide’, which allows the aircraft to ride the shock waves generated by hypersonic speeds.
According to Sassie and Andrew Duggleby, rocket engines offer much a better performance at altitudes like the one Stargazer hopes to reach because they are not powered by external oxygen. Oxygen is much scarcer at 52 km. In a recent interview with Business Insider, Sassie and Andrew Duggleby said that Venus has developed an engine called RDRE, which is the “world’s first liquid-fueled rotary detonation rocket engine.”
Venus’ chief technology officer says the RDRE produces more temperature and pressure than traditional rocket engines due to its higher burn rate, which translates into more thrust with less fuel. This approach allows the use of traditional lightweight materials such as titanium, which avoids the need to carry a robust fuselage with heat shields or other heavy protective measures.
After engine testing, the next step will be to integrate them into a drone for further development. The couple assures that although there is already market interest in their aircraft, the plane will not start operating until the 2030s at the earliest. “We have an incredible amount of hurdles to overcome,” Sassie Duggleby told Business Insider. “We’re taking it one step at a time, and the team continues to make incredible progress. We are reaching the milestones we want to reach.”