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A US startup wants to use a new kind of plane engine to propel a jet carrying 12 passengers from LA to Tokyo in an hour

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Stargazer concept image flying above the Earth with a view of the curve.

Venus Aerospace

  • Venus Aerospace is a US startup developing a Mach 9 hypersonic jet known as Stargazer.
  • The ultra-speedy plane would carry up to 12 people and fly some 5,000 miles in just one hour.
  • Insider spoke with Venus’ co-founders to learn about the recent developments and the obstacles ahead.

The last time humans witnessed supersonic travel was the legendary Concorde, which operated from 1973 to 2003. Equipped with four powerful engines, the super-speedy plane could journey from New York to London in less than four hours — a tremendous feat for the era.

However, the aircraft’s costly inefficiencies and risky operation forced airlines to retire it after 30 years of service. No manufacturer has yet been able to recreate the days of the Concorde, but some are trying.

Denver-based Boom Supersonic is leading the pack with its faster-than-sound Overture jet, already securing over 100 orders from United Airlines, Japan Airlines, and American Airlines.

However, some ambitious engineers are hoping to fly even faster, including European startup Destinus, Georgia-based Hermeus, and Texas-born Venus Aerospace — all of which are developing hypersonic planes.

Venus, in particular, was only founded in 2020 but has big plans for Mach 9 travel. Insider met with company co-founders CEO Sassie Duggleby and CTO Andrew Duggleby at the Paris Airshow in June to learn more about their planned jet, dubbed “Stargazer.”

Flying at least five times the speed of sound, Stargazer is designed to bullet from San Francisco to Tokyo in just one hour — 11x faster than today’s flight time.Stargazer concept image over Earth in cruise.

Venus Aerospace

According to Venus, the jet is being developed to fly at Mach 9, or nine times the speed of sound. That equates to about 5,000 miles per hour.

By comparison, the Concorde flew at about Mach 2, Overture is being built for Mach 1.7, and Hermus and Destinus are designing their hypersonic planes for Mach 5.

Andrew told Insider the one-hour global transport would be thanks to a combination of jet and rocket engines.A male Venus employee working outside.

Venus Aerospace

He explained Stargazer would take off using traditional jet engines. Once it is away from city centers, it would switch to rocket engines to climb to 170,000 feet and reach hypersonic speeds.

The incredible altitude is more than four times as high as traditional jetliners fly and will give passengers a view of the Earth’s curve and the darkness of space.air new zealandAir New Zealand Boeing 777.

Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Most passenger airlines fly around 40,000 feet, meaning Stargazer’s planned cruising altitude is about 130,000 feet higher — though still not high enough to touch space.

Sassie said the hypersonic idea started in 2018 when Andrew — who is married to Sassie — was deployed to Japan as a member of the US Navy reserves.Venus Aerospace co-founders CEO Sassie Duggleby (let) and CTO Andrew Duggleby (right).

Venus Aerospace

“We were on deployment in Japan when we were looking out at Tokyo Bay one afternoon and Andrew turned to me and said there’s this new rocket engine coming down the pipeline,” Sassie told Insider. “And, he said if it’s ever proven, then we can put it on a plane and be home in an hour.”

But, reaching this ambitious goal will be a monumental task and require Venus to build upon already proven technologies, as well as develop new ones, like the “world’s first liquid-propellant rotating detonation rocket engine.”Venus team standing in front of a jetliner.

Venus Aerospace

Andrew explained that today’s rocket engines burn subsonically, which would not be enough power for Stargazer.

But, supersonic combustion would produce enough thrust for hypersonic flight. This led Venus to build the RDRE.

According to Andrew, the RDRE generates more temperature and pressure compared to traditional rocket engines because the RDRE burns faster, effectively producing more thrust while using less fuel.Venus' RDRE engine test with orange flames.

Venus Aerospace

Rocket engines, in general, are also preferred because they offer much better performance at higher altitudes compared to jet engines because they do not feed on outside oxygen, which is much thinner at 170,000 feet.

Andrew told Insider that Stargazer would carry a “sort of liquid air” to power the rocket engines.A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches against a dusk sky, with a SpaceX branded factory visible in the foreground.SpaceX rocket launch.

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In October 2022, Venus became the first company in the world to engineer “room temperature storable liquid fuels” to operate in an RDRE: “We now have both the technical knowledge and engineering to fully advance into next steps of development and flight testing,” Andrew said at the time. 

Sassie compared the concept to a scene in the film Top Gun: Maverick where Tom Cruise’s character Pete “Maverick” Mitchell flies a military test plane to Mach 10 using a jet engine.SR-72 Aviationist

via The Aviationist

The fictional jet is the SR-72 “Darkstar,” which doesn’t actually exist but is an unmanned hypersonic plane concept proposed by Lockheed Martin as a successor to the SR-71 “Blackbird.”

She said the SR-72 started to “melt” due to the immense 2,000°F heat generated from flying at hypersonic speeds — especially at the lower altitude required for the jet engine.SR-72 SR-71 Blackbird

US Air Force

Sassie described Maverick’s fictional actions as “flying through the soup of the atmosphere.”

Venus, however, plans to swap the jet engine out with a rocket engine — meaning it can fly above the heat and bring the aircraft’s skin temperature down to around 800°F, Andrew told Insider.Stargazer concept image flying above the Earth with a view of the curve.

Venus Aerospace

This would also effectively allow Venus to use traditional materials that are lightweight, like titanium — no need for a robust fuselage with heat shields or other heavy protections. 

Moreover, Venus bringing its own oxygen will solve the problem of passengers needing air at high altitudes — especially in the case of depressurization.Concorde cabin interiorAn interior image of the Concorde.

Wikimedia/Daniel Schwen

Andrew also addressed the concern of micrometeorites in the atmosphere, but pointed to Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic as examples of “public engineering that show how they would handle it.”

Venus recently announced a partnership with Airbus Ventures — an arm of the European planemaker — to further develop its hypersonic engine.The engine test right before detonation.The engine test right before detonation.

Venus Aerospace

Sassie said in a press release that Venus’ RDRE “demonstrates a double-digit percentage increase in efficiency over standard regular engines, making the hypersonic economy possible.”

Other innovations include Stargazer’s wave-rider design, which is a “highly efficient boost-glide mode of flight” and essentially helps the jet ride its own shockwaves created by hypersonic speeds.Destinus L at an airport gate.Destinus L.


Competing planemaker Destinus is using the same design on its “Destinus S” and “Destinus L” passenger planes, both of which are also at least a decade away.

As far as passenger comfort, Andrew told Insider that the Stargazer cabin will be all business class and that the “liquid air” onboard will help cool the 12-passenger cabin.Venus Aerospace Stargazer.

Venus Aerospace

Andrew also explained that the climb to 170,000 feet will be smooth to ensure passengers do not experience G-force: “We’re looking for this to be for everyday people,” he told Insider.

However, Sassie explained plane tickets will be impossible to keep cheap, saying studies show the fare for hypersonic travel will be anywhere between two and five times the cost of a first class ticket.A female Venus employee working.

Venus Aerospace

A typical Concorde ticket cost $6,000 one-way in the late 1990s. The most-frequent Concorde flyer is Fred Finn, who flew on the supersonic plane 718 times and spent over $2.5 million (about $4.4 million today) on seats until the jet’s retirement in 2003.

She noted that the data point is based on current market surveys, and Venus is aiming for the current price of first class.First-class seating on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380, which can be combined with the neighboring suite to create a huge room with a double bed and two loungers.First-class seating on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380, which can be combined with the neighboring suite to create a huge room with a double bed and two loungers.

ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images.

Venus research revealed business travelers are willing to pay more than a regular first class ticket price if they can cut long-haul flying to only one hour. Current first class airfare on carriers like Emirates and Singapore Airlines is in the tens of thousands of dollars.

While the company is confident the market is there, Stargazer is not expected to hit the market until at least the 2030s, and regulations surrounding hypersonic travel are still basically non-existent.Stargazer concept image on a runway.

Venus Aerospace

Things like airport infrastructure and air traffic control flows have not been written into law and will require a lot of research and testing.

But Venus recently got a win when it lobbied Congress to add language into the FAA’s Reauthorization Act of 2023 to “provide a clear framework” for hypersonic testing and development.Boom Supersonic engine testing.Boom Supersonic engine testing in the desert, which is where most supersonic testing is done.

Boom Supersonic

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023 will amend the prior act of 2018 with improvements to things like safety and technology, as well as current guidance and policy.

This is a major win for hypersonic startups like Venus and Hermeus, especially since both have complained of the lack of long-distance “corridors” that allow for supersonic testing over land.Hermeus presidential jet.The US Air Force has invested millions into the development of Hermeus’ hypersonic presidential jet.


Hermeus is a US startup tapped by the US Department of Defense to build a hypersonic Air Force One. It competes with Venus.

Despite the win in Congress, Venus acknowledged the development of hypersonic travel still has a long way to go.Stargazer concept image climbing.

Venus Aerospace

Venus told Insider it is aiming to introduce Stargazer in the 2030s, which is one track with Destinus’ timeline for its “Destinus S” hypersonic plane.

“There’s an incredible amount of hurdles we have to get through,” Sassie said. “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.”Two Venus drones in front of a flag.

Venus Aerospace

Andrew explained that Venus is continuing to test the engine in partnership with Airbus Ventures, and it will soon be put onto a drone for further development.

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