They scheduled it for 2 a.m. – partly to keep from using so much electricity during the day, and partly so no one would be bothered by the noise. They heard the rumble of an engine they call Chimera and watched it shoot out exhaust flames that flickered from a transparent blue to a blast of orange.
The 30-second test showed the engine was capable of what’s known as “mode transition,” meaning it can switch from turbojet to ramjet propulsion right around Mach 3. That’s an important step toward its main goal of propelling a passenger aircraft to Mach 5.
Skyler Shuford, Hermeus’ co-founder and chief operating officer, was among several employees watching a livestream on a projector from their factory floor in Atlanta. He remembers the team being tired but excited as they smiled and pointed at the screen.
“Mode transition was the next instantiation of something that’s going to be able to be flown, but it was also working through the delicate dance of going from a regular jet engine operation to a ramjet operation,” he said. “For us, that was a technical de-risk but also a really exciting culmination of months of work.”
Hermeus’ progress is promising for Raytheon Technologies, too.
In 2022, the company’s venture capital operation, RTX Ventures, chose Hermeus as one of its first eight investments, adding it to a portfolio of startups working in areas including hypersonics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced manufacturing and sustainable aviation.
The goal of each investment is twofold: to help those companies innovate, and to strengthen Raytheon Technologies’ pipeline of approaches to solving the future needs of customers across aerospace and defense.
“The more we help these portfolio companies, the more we benefit as an organization – and the more our customers benefit,” said Dan Ateya, RTX Ventures’ president and managing director. “Innovation is happening with or without us, so if we embrace it and participate, it’s going to open a lot of doors for us.”
Here’s a look at RTX Ventures’ portfolio and the advancements those companies are making.