Today we sit down with AJ Piplica, cofounder and CEO of Hermeus Corporation. He dials in straight from the belly of the beast, aka Hermeus’s Atlanta HQ and factory, where the team aims to make hypersonic air travel a reality before the decade is out. Pathfinder #0033 is brought to you by Altek Space.
On today’s episode, we sit down with AJ Piplica, cofounder and CEO of Hermeus Corporation. The Atlanta startup aims to make hypersonic air travel a reality before the decade is out. AJ dialed into Pathfinder straight from the belly of the beast, i.e., Hermeus’s factory in Atlanta, which was abuzz with employees and machines whirling in the background.
Today’s episode is brought to you by Altek Space.
What is Hermeus up to?
The Hermeus team is focused on shrinking the globe by developing the world’s fastest passenger aircraft. The timeline for that = 2029. In the meantime, Hermeus recently selected Pratt & Whitney’s F100 turbofan for integration into its hypersonic engine, a move that the company claims will save it billions in R&D costs and years of schedule.
Also in recent memory, Hermeus successfully demonstrated a turbojet to ramjet transition with its Chimera engine. Finally, Hermeus raised a $100M Series B last March to develop Quarterhorse and Darkhorse, its first and second hypersonic vehicles.
Among other things, AJ and Ryan covered:
— The startup’s origin story
— The roadmap: Chimera → Quarterhorse → Darkhorse → Halcyon
— What’s the state of hypersonics today?
— How the Halcyon passenger aircraft will be designed
— Derisking the business plan through iterative development and buying off the shelf
— Lowering the cost of aircraft certification
— Building in public and investing in marketing early on
— Atlanta’s talent density and Hermeus’s recruiting efforts
02:40 – Welcome, AJ
06:02 – Hermeus’s beginnings
10:49 – Rockets and ICBMs fly at hypersonic speeds…what’s new here? (+ nice pun)
14:24 – Why do planes fly slower today than decades ago?
20:14 – Chimera engine and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts
21:31 – Watch Chimera go turbojet –> ramjet 🔥🔥🔥
24:28 – AJ’s take on a hypersonics gap between the US and near-peer adversaries
32:00 – How’d do you get VCs to bet on you so early on?
37:11 – Chimera → Quarterhorse → Darkhorse → Halcyon
47:29 – UX for hypersonic airliners
49:03 – How do you back into your estimate that hypersonics could add $4T in GDP?!
51:46 – All-in costs of bringing Halcyon to market
54:05 – Outmaneuvering commercial competitors / defense primes
57:19 – Status quo in government procurement
59:10 – Why build in public and invest in marketing so early on?
1:02:42 – Talent density in Atlanta