In a world yearning for swift and sustainable means of transport, the European aircraft manufacturer Destinus is daring to dream big, marrying cutting-edge technology with a keen sense of environmental responsibility. As recently unveiled at the prestigious Paris Air Show, this innovative corporation’s plan seeks to propel the future of commercial hypersonic aviation to unprecedented heights.
Embracing the Hypersonic Horizon
Labeled by Senior Business Development Manager, Martina Löfqvist, as “a lovechild of a rocket and an aeroplane”, Destinus’ forthcoming flagship, the Destinus S, represents a bold leap into the hypersonic arena. This 25-seat marvel is designed to surpass Mach 5—five times the speed of sound—and journey up to 10,000 kilometres, effectively outpacing even the iconic Concorde.
For example, the travel time from London to New York would be trimmed to a mere 90 minutes. This considerable stride in speed and efficiency is set to initiate a new chapter in aviation, with deliveries expected to commence between 2032 and 2035. A larger sibling, the Destinus L, is slated to join the fleet in the 2040s.
Revolutionary Propulsion and Eco-friendly Fuel
Destinus’ groundbreaking propulsion system melds the best of turbojet and jet engines. Utilizing afterburners, the turbojet engine boosts the aircraft from subsonic to supersonic velocities, while the inclusion of a ramjet engine facilitates hypersonic speed (a ramjet engine, as opposed to traditional engines, operates by taking in air at high speeds and using the resulting pressure to ignite fuel and produce thrust).
In a remarkable fusion of speed and sustainability, the Destinus design incorporates liquid hydrogen as its fuel source. Offering higher efficiency than standard jet fuel, liquid hydrogen leaves no carbon footprint, aligning with global efforts to mitigate climate change. Moreover, hydrogen doubles up as a coolant, a crucial feature given the extreme temperatures (up to 1000 degrees Celsius) generated at hypersonic speeds.
Redefining Aerodynamics with Wave Rider Design
Leveraging a ‘wave rider design’, Destinus’ jets harness the shock waves produced at ultra-fast speeds to gain additional lift and aerodynamic efficiency. This trailblazing concept suggests a unique blend of spacecraft and traditional aeroplane dynamics, pioneering a novel flight paradigm.
Prototypes of Destinus aircraft, including the Jungfrau and the Eiger, have undergone testing at subsonic speeds. Despite a rough landing during the Eiger’s inaugural flight, the company’s faith in its design and resilience remains unshaken.
Tapping into the Hydrogen Revolution
Destinus foresees hydrogen playing a pivotal role in the future of aviation, echoing sentiments held by industry titans like Airbus who are currently trialling hydrogen engines for zero-emission aircraft. However, Destinus is not without competition. American start-up Venus Aerospace, for instance, is also developing a hypersonic aircraft – the “Stargazer” that could potentially reach Mach 9.
To finance its ambitious development, Destinus has diversified into the energy sector, providing products and services such as a gas turbine engine acquired from another company. Notably, at the Paris Air Show, the Destinus 3 was revealed – the world’s first hydrogen-powered supersonic unmanned aeroplane, adding yet another feather to the company’s cap.
As we delve into a new era of air travel, Destinus’ ambitious vision charts a promising trajectory. While the journey to hypersonic commercial flights will be filled with challenges, it represents a fascinating fusion of speed, efficiency, and environmental responsibility. By harnessing the power of hydrogen and the principles of supersonic flight, Destinus is pushing the boundaries of what we once believed was possible, reshaping our expectations of the future.