Venus Stargazer: Hypersonic jet could reach Tokyo from San Francisco in just one hour

Venus Aerospace's futuristic "Stargazer" hypersonic plane will combine jet and rocket engines.
Christopher McFadden
Aptly named, the "Stargazer" will travel just inside Earth's atmosphere.

Venus Aerospace 

In an exclusive interview with Business Insider, Venus Aerospace founders Sassie Duggleby and Andrew Duggleby gave some interesting titbits about its proposed hypersonic aircraft, the "Stargazer."

Planned to travel at Mach 9, the new craft should be able to transport 12 passengers between San Francisco to Tokyo in just one hour. That's eleven times faster than a typical long-haul flight today.

Mach 9 travel

This means the new craft will be able to achieve long-haul speeds over 6,900 mph (11,105 kph), which would shred travel times globally if achieved. To put that into perspective, the sorely missed Concorde could only achieve top speeds of Mach 2 or 1,535 mph (2.470 kph). Venus Aerospace CEO Sassie Duggleby and the chief technology officer Andrew Duggleby told Business Insider that this would be achieved by combining jet and rocket engines.

They explained that the "Stargazer" would take off like a conventional jetliner using jet engines and would then switch to rocket engines once away from populated areas. The rockets would then enable the craft to reach a cruise altitude of 170,000 feet at hypersonic speeds. That's more than four times higher than most jetliners typically travel today. At such a height, passengers would enjoy a view of the Earth's curvature and get excellent views of space.

However, this will not be easy, and Venus Aerospace has a ways to go yet technologically to achieve this ambitious vision of future travel. They will need to build on existing technologies and, more critically, develop entirely new ones from scratch. One notable example is what they called the "world's first liquid-propellant rotating detonation rocket engine," or RDRE.

Rocket engines are often preferred over jet engines due to their superior performance at high altitudes. This is because they do not rely on outside oxygen, which becomes thinner at heights of 170,000 feet (just shy of 52 km). The "Karman Line," the official start of space, is at around 62 miles (100 km) altitude.

According to Duggleby, the RDRE (rocket engine) produces more temperature and pressure than traditional rocket engines because of its faster burn rate, resulting in increased thrust while using less fuel. "There's an incredible amount of hurdles we have to get through," Sassie Duggleby told Business Insider. "We're just taking it one step at a time, and the team continues to make incredible progress, and we're hitting the milestones we want to hit," she added.

Andrew told Insider that Stargazer would carry a "sort of liquid air" to power the rocket engines. Last October, Venus achieved a major milestone by creating "room temperature storable liquid fuels" that can be used in an RDRE. This groundbreaking achievement has provided the necessary technical knowledge and engineering to progress toward the next development and flight testing stages. Andrew Duggleby expressed his excitement about this accomplishment.

Using traditional lightweight materials like titanium would be feasible for Venus with this approach. There would be no necessity for a sturdy fuselage with heat shields or other heavy protective measures. Additionally, the issue of passengers requiring air at high altitudes, especially during depressurization, could be resolved if Venus were to provide its oxygen.

A decade away

Stargazer has developed a new wave-rider design that enables their jets to fly more efficiently. This boost-glide flight mode allows the jet to ride on its shockwaves generated by hypersonic speeds. Although the company is optimistic about the market demand for its innovation, Stargazer will not begin operating until the 2030s at the earliest. Moreover, regulations about hypersonic travel are still undeveloped.

According to Andrew, Venus is currently conducting engine tests with Airbus Ventures as an investor. It is expected to be integrated into a drone for further development shortly.

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