Hypersonic jet to be designed in the cloud

Design in cloud to fly over clouds

Jon Peddie


Atlanta-based aerospace startup Hermeus has chosen to design its upcoming Mach 5 business-class hypersonic jet in Onshape, the cloud-based product development platform for design and manufacturing. 

The Hermeus aircraft will have a range of 4,600 miles at a cruising speed of 3,300 miles per hour, reducing the flight time from New York to London from 7.25 hours to 90 minutes. 

Hypersonic speed is at or above Mach 5. The company didn’t reveal at what altitude its plane would fly, but generally speaking, a hypersonic aircraft will fly just above the stratosphere. For example, Boeing’s hypersonic plane would fly at Mach 5 at 95,000 feet. The Concorde that ran from 1976 to 2003, flew at Mach 2 at 60,000 feet.

“The idea of making a U.S.-to-Europe flight a short commute versus an all-day commitment staggers the imagination,” said co-founder and CEO of Onshape, Jon Hirschtick. 

Hermeus said it will take about 10 years to build its hypersonic jet. The company said it expects a flight aboard its jet to cost about $3,000.

The concept would be a 20-person aircraft targeting the private jet market or business class travelers, according to Hermeus COO Skyler Shuford. But it will be years before that could become a reality. Shuford said the company is targeting an 8- to 10-year time frame, including a 4- to 5-year process for Federal Aviation Administration certification.

Founded in 2018, Hermeus will face a growing field in aerospace. Two years ago, the startup Boom Technology partnered with Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson to create a carrier that could reach Mach 2.2. As of January 2019, Boom had raised more than $140 million toward the development of its Overture airliner, envisioned to travel at Mach 2.2, which is about 10% faster than the Concorde traveled.

A year ago, NASA gave the aerospace and defense contractor Lockheed Martin a $241.5 million contract to develop a quiet supersonic plane that could fly by mid-2022. 

And in June 2018, Boeing unveiled its hypersonic plane concept at the Aviation and Aeronautics Forum in Atlanta. Boeing HorizonX joined in with Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems to invest $37.3 million in British-based Reaction Engines, which is working on its own hypersonic propulsion system. 

Meanwhile, Spokane, Washington-based HyperSciences used a SeedInvest funding campaign to raise $9.2 million for accelerators that can fire projectiles and small aircraft at hypersonic speeds.

Hermeus came in as a runner-up in April 2019 in a $100,000 “Rise of the Rest” pitch contest that was sponsored by Steve Case’s Revolution venture capital firm and conducted in Florida. The company is also partnering with the ANSYS Startup Program. 

The company says it has won some high-profile seed funding for its effort to develop aircraft capable of flying more than five times the speed of sound. The venture capital firm Khosla Ventures led the seed round investment, with other private investors participating, including two members of the Hermeus board of advisors. The company would not disclose how much money it has raised.

“Our company is named after Hermes, the Greek god of travel,” says Hermeus co-founder and CTO Glenn Case. “We added the ‘us’ because we’re aiming to bring the world closer together. This is a long-term vision—and we have many milestones to hit along the way—but we believe this technology will forever change the way we travel.”

Case, who has used multiple CAD and file-based data management systems in his aerospace career, says he wanted to start from scratch with Onshape’s cloud product development platform because of its real-time data management.

“Onshape’s built-in versioning just makes things easier,” he says. “You’re always up to date. You can come into work in the morning and not wonder who updated what. Having the ability to see our colleagues’ design updates immediately show up on other CAD users’ machines is incredible.”

Onshape speeds up product development with an all-in-one system combining CAD, release management, workflow, collaboration, analytics, admin tools, and an API with more than 50 engineering applications. (Source: Onshape)


“One of the features I absolutely love is the Part Studio, where you can design multiple parts in one place and if you update one part, the other parts update right there,” Case adds. “It has completely changed the way I think about assemblies and the way highly coupled parts are designed.”

Hermeus co-founder and COO Skyler Shuford said he envisions a long-term partnership with Onshape. “Philosophically, we agree with Onshape’s approach to design and have found it to be the most forward-looking platform.”

The startup’s advisers include Rob Meyerson, the former president of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture in Kent, Washington. And there’s at least one more Blue Origin connection: Hermeus’ chief technology officer, Glenn Case, worked as a propulsion design and development engineer at the company for four and a half years.

The company’s four co-founders—including Glenn Case as well as Piplica, chief product officer Mike Smayda and chief operating officer Skyler Shuford—worked together at Generation Orbit, where they led the development of the Air Force’s X-60A hypersonic rocket plane. The resumes for Smayda and Shuford also include stints at SpaceX.

The company’s founders are all alumni of SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Generation Orbit, where they led the development of the X-60A, a hypersonic rocket-plane, and the Air Force’s newest X-Plane.

What do we think?

$3,000 for a 90-minute ride may sound expensive, but compare that to the same cost for 7 to 8-hour ride and it sounds like a bargain. How soon can I board?