Hypersonic startup Hermeus unveils first flyable aircraft 


Hypersonic flight startup Hermeus has publicly unveiled its first flyable aircraft, called the Quarterhorse Mk 1. A previous version, Quarterhorse Mk.0, was successfully tested on the ground in January 2024. 

The new model is not yet capable of reaching hypersonic speeds. However, the uncrewed experimental aircraft will allow the Atlanta-based startup to test a number of design concepts that it may then apply to successive iterations of the technology.  

It is expected that Quarterhorse Mk.1 will perform its first flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base, California, later in 2024. These will include high speed take-offs and landings. 

Quarterhorse Mk. 1 uses the same General Electric J85 engine that powers the F-5 Tiger II fighter jet and the T-38 Talon trainer. Hermeus is developing its own propulsion system called Chimera, which should power future hypersonic vehicles. 

Hermeus is already planning the next iteration of Quarterhorse, its Mk. 2 version. It should be ready by 2025 and will be powered by a Pratt & Whitney F100 engine, as used by the F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, and capable of supporting supersonic flight. 

Hermeus has raised around $100 million in funding, including sums from venture capital funds connected to prominent tech investors Sam Altman and Peter Thiel, as well as from the venture arm of aerospace giant RTX. It has also received $60 million from the US Department of Defense to further advance the development of hypersonic technologies, which have clear military uses. 

The Quarterhorse program should run well into 2026, in the form of the Quarterhorse Mk. 2 and Mk. 3. Following this, the next step for Hermeus should be the development of an uncrewed hypersonic system called Darkhorse, which the company aims to potentially mass-produce for the US military. 

Hermeus is also considering the development of civilian applications, such as a hypersonic airliner to be called Halcyon. 

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