Hypersonic technology developer Hermeus opted to move into the faster realm instead of supersonic, in part, because of military support applications. Supersonic aircraft do not have the same support, according to a report from analyst Jefferies.
In addition, Jefferies noted, “Hermeus believes hypersonic aircraft may actually be easier than supersonic because the hypersonic engine uses an off-the-shelf gas turbine engine and pre-cooler up to Mach 3 and then a ramjet to Mach 5, compared to building out the supply chain for a clean sheet supersonic engine.”
The intermediate markets in defense applications are a key enabler, “of which the [U.S.] Air Force will pay for,” the analyst added. Further, Jefferies noted “hypersonic would be more efficient than supersonic jets with minimal cost advantage for supersonic versus hypersonic.”
Founded in 2018 by executives with a background in commercial space and hypersonics markets, Hermeus believed the mature technologies in the industry, potential national security applications, and private capital availability made the time ripe for such development.
The company is using its first application, the Quarterhorse, as a scaled vehicle to prove the engine technology. The Air Force has agreed to a $60 million 50/50 investment into Quarterhorse to collect the data that could be used for future applications. Quarterhorse is anticipated to fly in 2023.
Hermeus is next to transition to Darkhorse, which will be used to test long-duration high-speed flight, testing, and derisking. Jefferies said this will have defense applications, generating resources for Halcyon, a 20-passenger Mach 5 aircraft that is planned for commercial markets.
The company sees a market for 500 aircraft by 2030 with a price in excess of $200 million, Jefferies said.
In March, Hermeus completed sealable static testing, proving out the ramburner-to-bypass system. The company now is taking its technologies to Notre Dame University to demonstrate the transition from turbojet to ram jet over the next few months.