Founded by Sarah “Sassie” Duggleby and Dr. Andrew Duggleby in 2020, Venus Aerospace is an early stage, deep tech, Houston based company, that aims to develop a Mach 9 hypersonic aircraft that will fly passengers around the world and back home in time for dinner, or so what the company claims.
Pushing the boundaries of high-speed transportation, the team at Venus comprises of a dedicated and experienced team of aerospace, military and research and development veterans. As mentioned on the website, the team is maturing its three main technologies:
- a zero-emission next-generation rocket engine- a patented rotating detonation rocket engine (RDRE)
- An innovative aircraft shape which will the ability of the spaceplane to take off from existing spaceports, using existing infrastructure, and
- An active leading-edge cooling system
Although Venus hasn’t released images of the design of its 12-passenger airliner, it has issued a release stating the $20 million Series A funding it has raised in conjunction with Prime Movers Lab. Apparently, the press release boldly states that “Venus Aerospace is building a zero-carbon emission spaceplane that will enable one-hour global travel.”
“Stargazer”- a hypersonic hybrid
The operational architecture of the conceptual stargazer could be compared to that of a hybrid car where the combustion engine and electric drivetrain work in parallel. The stargazer will likely feature two propulsion systems — a conventional jet engine and a rocket engine.
How is it any different from Hermeus’ air-breathing Turbine-Based Combined Cycle Propulsion (TBCC) engine approach?
According to Sarah and Andrew Duggleby, the stargazer is largely intended to integrate into the existing air transportation infrastructure. Capable of taking off from a standard runway at LAX, the hypersonic craft will use its jet engine to climb to a nominal conventional cruise altitude (35,000 feet or thereabouts).
Thereafter, the jet will be shut down and its inlet/exhaust would be closed off and the liquid-fueled rocket engine will be fired subsequently.
The rocket engine will propel the aircraft to Mach 9 (about 6,850 mph) at approximately 0.5 g of acceleration (slightly more than an airplane on takeoff, according to Andrew) as it climbs to a peak altitude of 170,000 feet.
The rocket then flames out and the airliner transitions into a hypersonic glider, descending unpowered toward its destination for 45 minutes and decelerating at around 0.1 g.
The jet engine is restarted as the aircraft nears 35,000 feet and further joins common airliners in the air traffic control queue for vectors to land at Narita (Tokyo).
We’ve gone from the impossible to the hard but there are still a lot of hard things leftsays Andrew Duggleby
With limited information on the airframe design, Duggleby says it is “waverider” shaped to create a single shockwave and to trap a pocket of high-pressure air under the belly of the vehicle for increased lift.
How do they plan to deal with the exceptionally high temperatures generated at Mach 9?
According to Duggleby, the aircraft will feature a 3D-printed nose with a novel internal cooling scheme which, in his words, can be thought of as a heat pipe on the leading edge which actually spreads the heat out. A similar system may also be featured on the leading edges of the wings.
The rest of the airplane will have standard aerospace materials utilized to keep the costs down.
All that said, Venus will be building a 5-foot-scale subsonic drone to fly around locally and prove its technology before building the Mach 9 hypersonic plane. The 14-foot drone is expected to clock Mach 5 speeds and is expected by December 2023.
On June 7, Venus released the first conceptual vehicle design for its hypersonic aircraft, the Stargazer.
The Dugglebys said future work on government projects will give Venus even more opportunities to develop its hypersonic aircraft
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