Hermeus Corporation, a startup company, developing a hypersonic passenger plane for Mach 5 travel around the world, announced a seed round investment by Khosla Ventures and private investors. The financing will further the development and testing of the plane's hypersonic propulsion system, reported a press release from Hermeus.
"Hermeus is developing an aircraft that not only improves the aviation experience with very reduced flight times, but also has the potential to have great societal and economic impact." said Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures.
Hermeus, which was founded last year, is concentrating on earthly hypersonic flight rather than deep space exploration. Its new propulsion technology could propel the aircraft faster than Mach 5, essentially cutting flight time between New York and London from seven hours to 90 minutes or less.
"We've set out on a journey to revolutionize the global transportation infrastructure, bringing it from the equivalent of dial-up into the broadband era, by radically increasing the speed of travel over long distances." said co-founder and CEO AJ Piplica. "We're excited to work with Khosla Ventures to turn this vision into reality."
Hermeus' founders are alumni from SpaceX and Blue Origin. All four founders worked together at Generation Orbit, where Piplica served as CEO and Glenn Case, Mike Smayda, and Skyler Shuford served as technical directors in the development of the Air Force's X-60A, a hypersonic rocket-plane.
Hypersonic flight is the ability to fly at exceptionally high speeds - surpassing Mach 5. Potential advantages of hypersonic flight are reduced travel times and improved space access.
Besides fifth-generation jet fighters, hypersonic technologies are the aerospace industry's hottest frontiers into the 2020s.
China and Russia are the leaders in hypersonic technology. Since 2005, China has written more important white papers on hypersonics than any other country or international group. The Chinese have invested in hypersonic test facilities, and as of recent, have started to test hypersonic vehicles. As for Russia, Moscow is expected to deploy a hypersonic missile system this year.
"With experience from the best of New Space companies, the Hermeus team is well-positioned to disrupt the hypersonics industry," said one of the startup's advisers Rob Meyerson, the former president of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture.
In addition to Meyerson, Hermeus' advisory board includes:
Rob Weiss, former executive vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works.
Keith Masback, former CEO of the US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, with earlier leadership roles at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the US Army Intelligence Master Plan Office.
Katerina Barilov, founder of Sparkplug Capital and managing director at Shearwater Aero Capital.
George Nield, former associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration.
Mitch Free, founder and CEO of ZYCI and former director of technical operations at Northwest Airlines.
So it seems the great hypersonic race is well underway - the first country to mature this disruptive technology will not just revolutionize commercial flight but will either maintain their empire [the US] or become the next dominant superpower [China].