NASA partnership hopes to develop the fastest commercial aircraft

Hermeus testing a GE J85 engine, which will power the first Mach 5 aircraft
Hermeus testing a GE J85 engine, which will power the first Mach 5 aircraft

Hermeus, the aerospace company developing Mach 5 aircraft, has signed a Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA for research and development of high-speed aircraft.

NASA has a long history with hypersonic planes. Its most recent hypersonic aircraft was the X-43, an experimental aircraft that flew Mach 9.6 in 2004. Before that was the X-15, a piloted rocket-plane, which flew Mach 6.7 in 1967.

Now, 17 years after X-43's record-breaking flight, Hermeus is teaming with NASA to commercialise high-speed flight technology NASA has been exploring for decades.

Under the agreement, NASA will evaluate technological maturity and exchange subject matter expertise. Both organisations will collaborate on the development of aircraft concepts of operation, including analysis of high-Mach thrust performance, thermal management, integrated power generation, and cabin systems.

This partnership reflects NASA's investment in drastically increasing how fast people move around the planet through the development of commercial high-speed flight.

"High-speed flight represents the next frontier in commercial passenger travel and has the potential to radically impact how people interact. NASA looks forward to working with Hermeus towards that faster future," said Chuck Leonard, project manager of NASA's Hypersonic Technology Project (HTP). The project focuses on sustaining hypersonic competency for national needs while advancing fundamental hypersonics research.

This further indicates US governmental interest in Hermeus' vision of Mach 5 commercial flight. In 2020, Hermeus was selected by the US Air Force to study how Hermeus' Mach 5 aircraft can support the objectives of the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate, whose fleet includes Air Force One.

Hermeus says it is committed to transforming the global transportation network with the fastest commercial aircraft, and the research done with this partnership will be key to getting there quickly.

The technical solutions developed by NASA and Hermeus under this partnership will be applied directly and tested on Hermeus' GE J85 jet engine, which will be the core of the turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) for the first series of aircraft. Over the coming months and using its Series A funding, Hermeus will modify this engine to be Mach 5 capable, utilizing lessons-learned from its 9-month demonstration engine test campaign last year.

“NASA has been at the forefront of developments in high-speed flight since its creation in 1958,” said Michael Smayda, Founder and chief product officer at Hermeus. “We are excited to partner with NASA as we develop the technology to revolutionize long-distance air travel.”



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