First Airplane Unveiled by Hypersonic Startup

First Airplane Unveiled by Hypersonic Startup

Hermeus, an Atlanta-based business, has showcased its first flight vehicle, taking it one step closer to creating the world’s first hypersonic airplane.

For many years, there have been hypersonic aircraft, or ones that can go at least Mach 5, or 3,836 miles per hour. However, these aircraft have always needed rocket engines, and the only method to launch them is by dropping them from a larger aircraft.

In an unprecedented endeavor, Hermeus is striving to construct not one, but two hypersonic aircraft equipped with jet engines, enabling them to take off from runways much like conventional aircraft, thereby expanding their potential uses.

Darkhorse is one of those aircraft that will be used by the military as a reusable, unmanned drone. With the other, Halcyon, a commercial passenger aircraft, the typical 7-hour travel time between New York and London might be reduced to just 90 minutes.

Hermeus is developing four test vehicles, the Quarterhorse Mk 0, Mk 1, Mk 2, and Mk 3, each of which builds on the capabilities of the previous one, before producing either of those hypersonic aircraft.

The startup completed testing Quarterhorse Mk 0, a non-flying prototype that was intended to show off ground-based capabilities including controlled taxiing and remote command, in January.

It has now unveiled the Quarterhorse Mk 1, the first vehicle it genuinely intends to fly.

The main goal of the Mk 1’s testing phase will be to demonstrate high-speed takeoff and landing. The plane is remotely piloted and unmanned.

“As we begin the journey to first flight, we will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the aircraft’s performance while simultaneously examining the effectiveness of our test procedures, safety culture, and interdisciplinary team collaboration,” said Don Kaderbek, Hermeus’ VP of test.

Hermeus not only unveiled Mk 1 but also disclosed designs for Mk 2. It is anticipated the aircraft, which will be powered by an F100 engine created by Pratt & Whitney, will accomplish supersonic flying by 2025.

“For just over 50 years the F100 has powered the F-15 and F-16 with industry-leading reliability, and now it enters a new era of aviation … Seeing a new aircraft flying the F100 supersonic next year will be nothing short of extraordinary,” said Josh Goodman, senior director of the F100 program at Pratt & Whitney.

After testing the Quarterhorse Mk 2, Hermeus will be prepared to move on to the Mk 3, which it intends to use to surpass the air-breathing plane’s all-time record of 2193.2 mph, which was set by the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird in 1976.

Hermeus will then construct Darkhorse, which is predicted to achieve hypersonic speeds, and Halcyon, a jet that could enable five times faster global travel than any current commercial aircraft. With luck.

“Success is a possible outcome,” AJ Piplica, Hermeus’ co-founder and CEO, told Freethink in 2022. “Is it the most likely outcome? No. You just keep moving, keep moving little bit by bit, until we will this into existence.”