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Hermeus wins $1.5M from Air Force for hypersonic flight

A hypersonic Air Force One? It could happen.

Atlanta-based Hermeus Corp. is partnering with the U.S. Air Force and the Pentagon unit in charge of presidential aircraft to develop technologies for hypersonic travel — that is, flight at more than five times the speed of sound.

Hermeus has won a $1.5 million award for the effort under the terms of a contract with AFWERX, the Air Force’s innovation program. The award follows Hermeus’ successful test of a Mach 5 engine prototype in February.

Hermeus and the Air Force will conduct a rapid assessment of the company’s hypersonic concept for the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate’s fleet, which includes the Air Force One airplanes.

The next planes in the Air Force One fleet will be Boeing 747 jets, which are currently being modified for presidential use. Those planes are due for delivery in 2024. Presumably, hypersonic technology will be considered for the next next Air Force One.

“Leaps in capability are vital as we work to complicate the calculus of our adversaries,” Brig. Gen. Ryan Britton, program executive officier for the airlift directorate, explained in a news release.

“By leveraging commercial investment to drive new technologies into the Air Force, we are able to maximize our payback on Department of Defense investments,” Britton said. “The Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate is proud to support Hermeus in making this game-changing capability a reality as we look to recapitalize the fleet in the future.”

Hermeus says it brought its Mach 5 concept from design to test in just nine months. The test campaign served to reduce risk for Hermeus’ turbine-based combined cycle engine architecture, and demonstrated the team’s ability to execute projects efficiently.

Engine firing

“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,” said Glenn Case, Hermeus’ chief technical officer. “In addition, we’ve pushed the ramjet mode to Mach 4-5 conditions, demonstrating full-range hypersonic air-breathing propulsion capability.”

Hermeus is one of many ventures focusing on hypersonic flight for civilian and military applications. The other players range from Boeing and Lockheed Martin to Stratolaunch and Reaction Engines.

There are a couple of connections between Hermeus and Blue Origin, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ space venture. Before joining Hermeus, Case worked as a propulsion design and engineer at Blue Origin. And one of Hermeus’ advisers is Rob Meyerson, Blue Origin’s former president.

This report was published on Cosmic Log. Accept no substitutes.

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HyperSciences pushes ahead with blaster tech

HyperSciences has raised more than $9 million for its hypersonic blaster technology using an unusual crowdfunding model, but now it’s working to attract millions more in investment the old-fashioned way.

The six-year-old venture in Spokane, Wash., founded by CEO Mark Russell and backed by Seattle startup veteran Mike McSherry, is in the midst of a funding round that’s offering up to $3.95 million in equity. More than $1.6 million of that equity has already been sold, coming on the heels of a $9.2 million equity-based crowdfunding campaign that made use of the SeedInvest and Crowdcube online platforms.

About 4,000 investors got in on the campaign, which ended last year and morphed into the current investment round, Russell said. “We had investors putting in from $2,000 to … you know, some invested over $100,000,” he told GeekWire. “We’d always built the company to be a starting point for a public company.”

Russell said total investment to date amounts to more than $13 million, including seed funding that came before the crowdfunding. As of last week’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, $2.3 million of the current offering remained to be sold.

For Russell and his team, the true bottom line is to build a solid foundation for the next stage of HyperSciences’ efforts to harness the company’s ram accelerator technology, which came out of a collaboration with the University of Washington.

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Stratolaunch resurrects hypersonic rocket vehicle

Stratolaunch hypersonic vehicle
An artist’s conception shows Stratolaunch’s Talon-A hypersonic test vehicle. (Stratolaunch Illustration)

Now that it’s under new management, Stratolaunch is retooling a concept for a rocket-powered hypersonic vehicle that it first unveiled 18 months ago.

Back then, it was called the Hyper-A testbed vehicle, and it represented one of the engineering frontiers for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s space venture.

A month later, Allen passed away at the age of 65 after battling a recurrence of non-Hodgkin’s disease. Stratolaunch went through a year’s worth of retrenching, leading to a change of ownership last October.

The new ownership group, led by billionaire investor Steve Feinberg, recently confirmed that it was continuing Stratolaunch’s work on hypersonic vehicles — and today it unveiled a rebranded version of the Hyper-A, now known as the Talon-A.

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Systima expands to meet hypersonic demand

Hypersonic test
Systima Technologies was a subcontractor on the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation Program, or HIFiRE, in 2012. (AFRL Photo)

Kirkland, Wash.-based Systima Technologies is taking on more employees and real estate to work on Defense Department contracts related to hypersonic and long-range weapon systems.

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Boeing pulls out of DARPA space plane program

Phanton Express XS-1 space plane
An artist’s conception shows Boeing’s Phantom Express XS-1 space plane in flight. (Boeing Illustration)

The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says Boeing is dropping out of its Experimental Spaceplane Program immediately, grounding the XS-1 Phantom Express even though technical tests had shown the hypersonic space plane concept was feasible.

“The detailed engineering activities conducted under the Experimental Spaceplane Program affirmed that no technical showstoppers stand in the way of achieving DARPA’s objectives, and that a system such as XSP would bolster national security,” DARPA said in a statement issued today.

In a follow-up statement, Boeing confirmed that it’s ending its role in the program after a detailed review.

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Stratolaunch keeps working on hypersonic vehicles

Stratolaunch hypersonic testbed
Stratolaunch’s swept-wing hypersonic testbed would be propelled by a rocket engine. (Stratolaunch Illustration)

It’s been three months since ownership of the Stratolaunch space venture was transferred from the late Seattle billionaire Paul Allen’s estate to a private equity firm, but the new owners say they’re still pursuing one of the old owner’s dreams: hypersonic flight.

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Hermeus wins funding for hypersonic aircraft

Hermeus hypersonic craft
This artist’s conception shows Hermeus’ hypersonic aircraft. (Hermeus Illustration)

Atlanta-based Hermeus Corp. says it’s won some high-profile seed funding for its effort to develop aircraft capable of flying more than five times the speed of sound

The startup’s advisers includes Rob Meyerson, the former president of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture in Kent, Wash. And there’s at least one more Blue Origin connection: Hermeus’ chief technology officer, Glenn Case, worked as a propulsion design and development engineer at the company for four and a half years.

Hermeus, which was founded last year, is setting its sights on earthly hypersonic flight rather than the space frontier. It’s working on the propulsion technology for aircraft capable of flying faster than 3,000 mph. That could cut flight time between New York and London from seven hours to 90 minutes.

“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.” co-founder and CEO AJ Piplica said today in a news release announcing the seed round and Hermeus’ advisers.

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Stratolaunch lays out roadmap for hypersonic planes

Stratolaunch hypersonic testbed
Stratolaunch’s swept-wing hypersonic testbed would be propelled by a rocket engine. (Stratolaunch Illustration)

Stratolaunch Systems, the aerospace company created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, says it’s exploring the development of a series of rocket planes that would serve as a testbed for hypersonic flight.

Stephen Corda, Stratolaunch’s senior technical fellow for hypersonics, presented the concept this week at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ International Space Planes and Hypersonic Systems and Technologies conference in Orlando, Fla.

If Stratolaunch follows through on the concept, the company could use the world’s largest airplane as a launch platform for an uncrewed aerospace plane that travels at more than 10 times the speed of sound, or Mach 10.

Hypersonic vehicles rank among the top technological frontiers for Pentagon officials, who have sounded the alarm about hypersonic weapon development programs in Russia and China. But it’s not yet clear whether Stratolaunch will join the hypersonic aerospace race.

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HyperSciences wins support for ram accelerator

Mark Russell
HyperSciences CEO Mark Russell holds a test projectile that is used in the company’s ram accelerator system. (HyperSciences via YouTube)

Things are looking up, and looking down, for HyperSciences Inc. Either way, that’s good news for the four-year-old hypersonic startup in Spokane, Wash., and for its founder and CEO, Mark Russell.

Hypersciences’ key technology is a ram accelerator system that can be used to drill downward into rock up to 10 times more quickly than traditional methods — or send a projectile upward at 6,700 mph, roughly nine times the speed of sound.

The drilling application, known as HyperDrill, won more than $1 million in support from Shell Global’s GameChanger program for early-stage technology development. In May, Shell sent HyperSciences a non-binding letter of intent to provide another $250,000 in development funding, potentially leading to a $2.5 million field trial.

Also in May, NASA awarded HyperSciences a $125,000 Small Business Innovation Research Phase I grant to develop a hypersonic launch system based on the company’s HyperCore ram accelerator technology.

“There’s a new way to fly,” Russell told GeekWire.

To take HyperSciences to the next level, Russell and his team have turned to SeedInvest, an online platform for equity-based crowdfunding,

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Going hypersonic: Boeing boosts Reaction Engines

Space plane
An artist’s conception shows a space plane powered by Reaction Engines’ SABRE system deploying an upper stage with a payload heading to orbit. (Reaction Engines Illustration)

Boeing’s HorizonX venture investment arm is placing a big bet on hypersonic flight.

Today it announced that it’s going in with Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems on a $37.3 million Series B investment round for Reaction Engines, a British aerospace startup focusing on a hybrid rocket-jet propulsion technology that could send aircraft zipping into space and back at multiple times the speed of sound.

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