high-speed travel

Houston startup with unique engine tech reports milestone testing results

Venus Aerospace is one step closer to high-speed international travel. Photo courtesy Venus Aerospace

A Houston-headquartered hardtech company that's working on technology to enable hypersonic travel has announced a partnership with NASA to test its tech.

Venus Aerospace has partnered with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on what is reportedly the longest sustained tests of a rotating detonation rocket engine, also known as an RDRE.

“Venus believes strongly in the performance step-change that RDREs bring for both hypersonic and space applications. The partnership with NASA has been key in maturing this new technology.” Andrew Duggleby, CTO and co-founder of Venus Aerospace, says in a news release.

The company's engine injector, which used regeneratively-cooled RDRE architecture, was tested in a "flight-like manner," according to the company. The technology operated successfully for 4 minutes of hotfire testing — a significant improvement, as engine tests of this type last for only 1 to 2 seconds, according to Venus.

"This long-duration hotfire means RDRE’s have retired a major risk area and are able to move into the few remaining steps before a flight demonstration," reads the press release from Venus.

As Venus continues to develop its technology for research, defense, and commercial missions, it will continue to work with NASA, which is also looking into RDRE technology for lunar and martian landers, in-space operations and logistics, and other deep space missions, per the release, because RDREs are more compact, efficient, and versatile than traditional rocket engines.

"Venus has entered into a second-year contract with NASA to provide engine parts for research and development of NASA’s RDRE," the news release continues. "In year two, NASA, with Venus’s support, will test different propellant combinations on hardware, to operate at even higher thrust levels and to demonstrate efficiency gains promised by the detonation engine."

Last summer, Venus added a new investor to its cap table. Andrew Duggleby founded Venus Aerospace with his wife and CEO Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby in 2020, before relocating to the Houston Spaceport in 2021. Last year, Venus raised a $20 million series A round.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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