The hypersonic hydrogen-powered jet aiming to cut flights from Europe to Australia to just 4 hours

·2-min read
The hypersonic hydrogen-powered jet aiming to cut flights from Europe to Australia to just 4 hours

Flying across the world from Europe to a destination such as Australia currently takes around 20 hours in a regular passenger jet.

But a Swiss start-up is looking to cut that journey time down to just over four hours - with a hypersonic, hydrogen-powered passenger jet.

Destinus has been testing its prototype aircraft for the past couple of years, announcing successful test flights of its second prototype - Eiger - at the end of 2022.

Now the company has announced participation in a programme run by Spain’s Ministry of Science, as part of the Spanish government’s plans to develop hydrogen-powered supersonic flights.

The agency overseeing the ministry's programme, the Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico e Industrial, selected the project as a strategic initiative under its Plan de Tecnologías Aeronáuticas (PTA).

With an overall current investment of €12 million, the project involves companies and technology centres as well as Spanish universities.

"We are delighted to have been awarded these grants, especially because they are a clear sign that Destinus is aligned with the strategic lines of Spain and Europe to advance hydrogen flight," Davide Bonetti, VP Business Development and Products for Destinus, said.

"For deep tech companies like us, access to these EU recovery funds is essential to carry out advanced research and accelerate the innovation needed to be competitive on a global scale. With these grants, hydrogen-based solutions for aeronautical mobility will be one step closer to becoming a reality".

Frankfurt to Sydney in 4 hours and 15 minutes

Hydrogen power is the subject of a lot of research and development, with proponents pointing to its green credentials, the main byproducts of hydrogen combustion being heat and water.

The amount of heat generated presents a design challenge. Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne recently developed 3D printed catalysts which they say can power hypersonic flight and act as a cooling agent to combat the extreme heat generated when aircraft fly five times the speed of sound, which is around 6,100 kilometres per hour (km/h).

At those speeds, future commercial airlines would be able to fly between London and New York in around 90 minutes.

Swiss start-up Destinus claims its technology will make a flight from Frankfurt to Sydney last just 4 hours 15 minutes as opposed to 20 hours, while a flight from Frankfurt to Shanghai would take 2 hours 45 minutes, eight hours shorter than that journey currently takes.

Destinus partnered with Spanish engine manufacturer ITP Aero in June 2022 to develop a hydrogen engine test facility. The grant from the Spanish government will fund the construction of a test facility near Madrid where the air-breathing hydrogen engines will be put through their paces.

A second grant project of €15 million will fund research into aspects of liquid hydrogen-powered propulsion.

The project is part of Spain’s push to be at the forefront of developing and producing hydrogen-based mobility in a number of sectors.