Supersonic travel hasn’t been a reality for even the most well-off individuals since the Concorde was retired almost 20 years ago, but a company called Venus Aerospace wants to make super-fast passenger planes a reality again. Its proposed Stargazer aircraft will blow right past supersonic into the realm of hypersonic travel, reaching speeds up to Mach 9 at the edge of space. If it comes to fruition, this plane could take passengers from Los Angeles to Tokyo in just an hour.
Venus Aerospace says it has been working on the design of its hypersonic aircraft since 2020, and it has raised $33 million in funding to build the plane. The Stargazer will be more akin to a commuter plane than the large airliners you’d usually take on a long trip, featuring space for just 12 passengers. The small size makes it easier to push the vehicle to incredible speeds.
At the time of takeoff, the Stargazer would rely on conventional airplane engines. It’s not until it nears its cruising altitude of 170,000 feet (51.8 kilometers) that it would switch to rocket engines. While the company calls Stargazer a “spaceplane,” it won’t actually cross the Karman Line, which is the generally accepted division between Earth and space at 100 kilometers.
The goal is not to take people to space or sell them on five minutes of weightlessness, a la Virgin Galactic. Venus Aerospace intends to fly at high altitude because the lower atmospheric density makes it easier to reach high speeds. However, passengers will get a stunning view from that height with the curvature of the Earth bordered by the deep black of space. Venus Aerospace tells Gizmodo it hopes to make tickets for the plane no more expensive than the average first-class seat. That sounds like a best-case scenario, though. Such an offering would create massive turmoil for traditional airlines, which could take the better part of a day to fly a route that Venus Aerospace says it’ll do in an hour or two.
The biggest problem with Venus Aerospace’s proposal is that the Stargazer doesn’t exist yet — not as a prototype, and probably not even as a tiny desktop model. It’s a render, but the technology to make it happen is technically within reach. If we can build rockets that land vertically, we should be able to build a plane that flies very, very fast. It’s just a matter of time and money, both of which Venus Aerospace claims to have in spades. The first test flights could take place in 2025, but it will be at least another five years of testing before you can buy a ticket. You might want to start saving up now.
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