United Airlines is the first official U.S. customer for Boom Supersonic, a company focused on making supersonic commercial flight a reality once again. Boom unveiled its supersonic sub-scale testing aircraft last year, and intends to start producing its Overture full-scale commercial supersonic passenger jet beginning in 2025, with a planned 2029 date for the beginning of commercial service after a few years of flight testing, design refinement and qualification.
United agreed to purchase 15 of the Overture aircraft, provided they meet United’s “safety, operating and sustainability requirements,” and the agreement also includes an option for the airline to purchase an additional 35 after that. United is obviously interested in the benefits of supersonic flight, which aims to reduce travel times by half, but it’s also looking to boost its sustainability profile with this deal with Boom.
Boom’s goal is to be the first commercial aircraft that runs on net-zero carbon footprint fuel right from day one. The company is focused on sourcing and using 100% sustainable aviation fuel, and part of the arrangement between the two companies includes United working in collaboration with the startup to develop and improve production sources for that sustainable fuel.
U.S. airlines committed jointly to a goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and as part of that they agreed to partner with government and other stakeholders to accelerate the development and commercialization of sustainable aviation fuel, so this team-up with Boom could be a key driver of those aims for United long-term.
Hermeus, a company seeking to build a Mach 5 aircraft that would be capable of making the trip from New York to London in just 90 minutes has raised a $16 million Series A round, led by Canaan Partners and including contributions from existing investors Khosla Ventures, Bling Capital, and the Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. The new funding will help the startup develop and ground test its first full-scale engine, the core component that will eventually power its debut Mach 5 aircraft.
Earlier this year, Hermeus was able to successfully demonstrate a sub-scale engine prototype, showing that the core design of its technology performed as intended. The company now plans to turn that into a version of the engine that matches its eventual production scale and power, while simultaneously expanding the footprint of its Atlanta-based test facility to also include some light in-house manufacturing capability. It’s also going to be working to continue the design of its debut aircraft, and says it will be sharing more info about that first plane over the course of the next few months.
Hermeus says that its target of Mach 5 flight is actually attainable using relatively mature technology already on market, and it cites a team with ample experience across a range of top-flight aerospace companies including SpaceX, Blue Origin, NASA, Boeing and more as another competitive advantage.
Mach 5 is nonetheless ambitious, however; the Concorde flew at speeds of just over Mach 2, and startup Boom Aerospace is targeting Mach 2.2 for its Overture commercial supersonic aircraft. NASA’s X-59 experimental supersonic jet, built by Lockheed Martin, will cruise at a speed of around Mach 1.42. Mach 5 obviously would be quite a bit faster than even the most ambitious of those projects, but Hermeus CEO AJ Piplica has said previously the company expects it to take around a decade of development before they produce a commercial passenger aircraft.
Virgin Galactic is making strides towards its goal of creating high-speed commercial aircraft that operates a little closer to Earth than its existing passenger spacecraft. The company revealed the initial design of the commercial passenger airplane it’s creating that’s designed to fly at speeds in excess of Mach 3 – faster than the average cruising speed of around Mach 2 that the original Concorde achieved.
This concept design comes alongside a new partnership for Virgin Galactic, by way of a memorandum of understanding that the company signed with Rolls-Royce, one of the world’s leading aircraft engine makers. Rolls-Royce is also responsible for the engine of the Concorde, the only supersonic commercial aircraft ever used for passenger travel.
Virgin Galactic announced in May that it would be partnering with NASA to work towards high-speed, high altitude point-to-point travel for commercial airline passengers. The plan is to eventually create an aircraft that can fly above 60,000 feet (the cruising altitude of the Concorde) and carry between 9 and 19 people per fly, with a cabin essentially set up to provide each of those passengers with either Business or First Class-style seating and service. One other key element of the design is that it be powered by next-gen sustainable fuel for more ecological operation.
In some ways, this project has many of the same goals that NASA has with its X-59 Quiet Supersonic research aircraft. Both aim to inspire the industry at large to do more to pursue the development of high-Mach point-to-point travel, and Virgin says that one of its aims is to “act as a catalyst to adoption in the rest of the aviation community” by coming up with baseline “sustainable technologies and techniques.”
Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, also has a partnership in place with startup Boom Supersonic to help develop their supersonic civil passenger aircraft. Boom is set to unveil and begin testing its XB-1 prototype at an event in October, and also recently announced a new partnership with Rolls-Royce to assist with the design and manufacture of the engines for its eventual Overture commercial plane.
Boom Supersonic, the Colorado -based startup working on creating a supersonic passenger jet to continue and dramatically advance the legacy of the original Concorde, has signed on Rolls-Royce to build the propulsion system for its Overture commercial aircraft. Boom is getting very close to actually beginning to fly its XB-1, a subscale demonstrator aircraft that will test and prove out many of the technologies that will be used to bring Overture to life.
This isn’t the first time Boom and Rolls-Royce have worked together: The two companies have had a number of different collaborations on aspects of their development process to date, Boom notes. Rolls-Royce has a history of developing engines for civil aircraft applications dating all the way back to World War II and is the second-largest maker of aircraft engines in the world.
Boom’s relative newcomer status should benefit greatly from the long tradition Rolls-Royce has in creating aircraft propulsion systems — and it doesn’t hurt that Rolls-Royce had a hand in creating the Olympus 593 turbojet that powered the original Concorde.
The Overture aims to be the world’s fastest passenger aircraft, with flights taking half the time they do on conventional commercial jets (New York to London in just three-and-a-half hours, for instance). The company aims to provide essentially dedicated business class service to a frequent business traveler clientele, and to do so sometime in the next five to 10 years.
The XB-1 demonstrator jet has a set reveal date of October 7 this year, which is the first time we’ll get a first-hand look at a fully functional aircraft that Boom really intends to fly.