Traveling in a space plane is much like traveling in a regular airplane, except for the middle part. After reaching cruising altitude, the pilot strikes the rocket thrusters and detonates the aircraft at the edge of space at over 9,000 mph, or about 12 times the speed of sound. The plane travels at this speed for about 15 minutes, then glides against the atmosphere to slow down. Venus Aerospace Corp., a startup researching a hypersonic space plane, aims to use the technique to transport people from Los Angeles to Tokyo in about an hour.
The company was started by two former employees of Virgin Orbit LLC: Sarah “Sassie” Duggleby, a code writing launch engineer, and her husband, Andrew. They became fascinated with hypersonic travel after missing Sassie’s grandmother’s 95th birthday party because the flights were too long from Japan, where they lived at the time. So they left Virgin last June to build their own space plane.
The Dugglebys say their spaceplane will differ from past efforts because it has a more efficient engine, allowing it to withstand the added weight of the wings, landing gear and jet engines that allow takeoffs and flights. landings similar to a passenger plane. The company will begin testing three scale models this summer.