A company called Venus Aerospace Corp. is pursuing a hypersonic space plane that has the potential to take people from Los Angeles to Tokyo in about an hour. The trip in their proposed space plane would take off from the ground like a conventional aircraft and fly up to a high cruising altitude. Once at that cruising altitude, a rocket booster would ignite and push the aircraft to the edge of space at more than 9000 mph.
That’s approximately 12 times the speed of sound. The aircraft would travel at that incredible velocity for approximately 15 minutes before gliding against the atmosphere to slow down and eventually landing at a conventional airport just as it took off. Venus was founded by a pair of former Virgin Orbit LLC employees, and the company currently has 15 employees of its own.
Most of the workers there are veterans of the space industry. Efforts to create a space plane have failed in the past, but the team believes their effort will work. The company points to its more efficient engine allowing the aircraft to handle the extra weight that comes with wings, landing gear, and jet engines for takeoffs and landings.
Venus admits that it’s not close to conducting test flights, and the shape of the aircraft is still a work in process. Testing of scale models is set to begin this summer, and Venus has secured a research grant from the US Air Force. The company is also seeking funding from the Department of Defense. Once it raises enough money to complete the project, the company believes it will take about a decade or more.
Venus also admits there are mysteries with their business plan. It’s unclear how much of flight might cost and if enough people would be willing to pay the presumably significant premium compared to a conventional flight to save a few hours.