Subtitle: The future of air travel – reach the other side of the world, sustainably, within 4 hours
Destinus is an organisation focusing on creating hypersonic air travel, which is five times the speed of sound, not just supersonic. That is travelling across the world sustainably in as little as four to five hours. They are a young startup company founded only two years ago. Destinus is already working in four countries in Europe; Switzerland, Spain, France and Germany.
Bart Van Hove is the Head of Advanced Studies at Destinus. He studied mechanical and aerospace engineering. He became interested in hypersonics and fluid dynamics at the von Karman Institute, where he worked on hypersonic aerodynamic wind tunnels. He did his PhD on Mars atmospheric entry capsules and has been fascinated by astronomy and science from an early age. Destinus is as close to space as you can reasonably fly on Earth, in the stratosphere at Mach 5. While that’s slow for a planetary lander, it’s insanely fast for a passenger aircraft. Bart likes to work on difficult problems with interesting people.
Philip Silva is a Mechanical Design Engineer for Destinus. He has worked on cutting-edge technologies at the CERN particle physics experiments, the ITER fusion reaction, and has been involved in numerous hydrogen technology projects involving cryogenics and fuel cells. He is responsible for hydrogen business development at Destinus, including mobility and energy generation.
3.00 - Key learnings from the test flights:
The test flights now are subsonic so the aircraft are relatively basic, but they have some special features you don't see in any other plane. There are many things we want to learn about, and one of them is the shape of the aircraft. They are very aggressively shaped to be hypersonic, even though today they fly subsonic.
4.30 - Subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic:
Subsonic is under the speed of sound, supersonic is at the rate of sound, and hypersonic is classified as five times the speed of sound.
5.20 - Overview of Destinus’s Goals
We want to make commercial hypersonic flight real. We want to go a lot faster than Concorde. And we want to make the world like a smaller place where we can go anywhere in less than 2-3 hours.
6.00 – Is Destinus focussed on specific uses vs revolutionising air transport as a whole
If you look at hydrogen in aviation today, it is usually focused on fuel cells, which is good for short, maybe medium-range travel. We’re working on combustion, and a lot faster. What we are working on is flying to the other side of the world and coming back on the same day. So that means no jet lag and a completely different way in which people will travel.
7 - Amount of fuel to have to keep on board
We're talking about several tons of fuel, which is not crazy in itself, but the volume of hydrogen is very large because the density is low. You have to store this hydrogen in a liquid form, which means it has to be cryogenic, very cold. That's one of the main challenges with these aircraft.
8 - The challenges, when you fly hypersonic compared to supersonic & refuelling
We are very heavily involved in the refuelling and the ground infrastructure. We have recently created a consortium to create infrastructure in an airport in France.
9.30 - Changes required when this comes to fruition
The aircraft are designed to operate at airports and they have to operate in airspace together with classical planes. That reality means we need to be compatible with the airports and beyond the fuel infrastructure and use the runways that exist.
10.30 - Safety aspects of having these aircraft
For the aircraft, we're going to be storing hydrogen in liquid form, so the pressure is very low. It's just much safer so if there's anything that happens the hydrogen will expand, but it will not explode, it will not create a shockwave, for example.
13.00 - Navigating through the legislation:
Hydrogen is slowly making its way into many industries. The operations and handling of hydrogen have been solved in specialized industries and will slowly make their way into the general society.
As for aviation certification and aircraft safety, the basic rules will not change. We have to think about how new technologies can satisfy those rules, but the rules themselves don't have to change.
15.10 - The progression of prototypes and where the design is aiming for in the future
The prototype aircraft is a progression of increasing complexity. We have been flying subsonic aircraft with hypersonic shapes, but subsonic engines, these are jet fuel. And incrementally, progressively, we are introducing hydrogen, going supersonic, later hypersonic.
16.30 - When is Destinus aiming for the first commercial flight and where is that likely to be?
The development of these aircraft will take at least 10 years. We cannot predict that commercial exploitation depends on a number of things like which customers are ready to buy are the regulations and the certifications complete.
17.00 - What other sort of challenges are you facing:
There is no shortage of people that want to work on this amazing project. On the other hand, there is some healthy scepticism. We believe we can do it, but we have to show ourselves and we have to show the world – so there is that promise to fulfil.
There's also the transition to hydrogen in aviation. In general, there is a big discussion about whether to pursue hydrogen exclusively or whether to rely on sustainable fuels, which may be oils, but zero carbon, this is something long-term that requires a strategic vision.
19.00 - Additional information:
We publish a lot of information on LinkedIn, a lot of videos, and a lot of images. We're trying to keep the public informed. We're not trying to keep any secrets. So join us. Even join us professionally.
Destinus are trying to align our technological roadmap with as many spin-offs to really create what we call the hydrogen valley. From green hydrogen production to combustion, to energy conversion and energy storage.
20.00 – When is the next test flight?
The next test flight is planned for the spring of next year. That will be the 3rd prototype which will ultimately go supersonic with a liquid hydrogen afterburner.
This will be the first time in history as well that somebody flies a liquid hydrogen afterburner on an aircraft. It is also a hybrid aircraft with a combination of jet fuel and hydrogen.
21.20 - Cost of tickets:
The cost can be reduced to become close to an expensive ticket today if hydrogen takes off and scales up large enough in the future.
22.00 - Realistically, what can be achieved by Destinus in the next 10 years?
Fully hydrogen-powered aircraft that fly Mach 5 should be totally possible in that timeframe.
One way to put it is, in the next 10 years, we want to change the question from, ‘Can we do it to ‘How do we optimize’