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Destinus wants to replace high-speed freight with hypersonic hydrogen planes

Mikhail Kokorich took his last business, the space freight startup, Momentus from an idea to a public offering on one of the world's major stock markets.

Now he wants to make a new business in near-space, using super fast hypersonic hydrogen powered planes to replace air freight and shipping for high-valued products.

Kokorich's new venture (called Destinus) could revolutionize the shipping industry with zero-emission travel, if he can get the planes built and approved to fly.

To help him build the business, investors have poured $29 million in financing into the new venture.

Kokorich, a Russian national, was forced out of Momentus due to security concerns around his involvement in a business which would have looked to significant contracts with the U.S. government for revenues.

In Switzerland, where Destinus has its headquarters, Kokorich should not face the same questions.

Despite the legal struggles and a $7 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over his involvement with Momentus, Kokorich found ready backers among his previous investors including Liquid2 Ventures, Cathexis Ventures, and ACE & Company. Quiet Capital and One Way Ventures also participated in the deal.

Destinus' vehicle will be an autonomous hyperplane, which is able to take off from the ground and fly close to the edge of Earth's atmosphere before re-entering and navigating to its destination. The company expects its plane to reach speeds of mach 15 once it reaches a cruising altitude of about 37 miles above the ground.

Kokorich's company hasn't flown a full-sized vehicle just yet, but has launched a car-sized prototype into near-orbit late last year.

“This year, we plan to start ground and flight tests of ATR [air turbo rocket] engines with hydrogen as fuel, which we are developing ourselves,” Kokorich told TechCrunch for an article earlier this week. “Like a turbojet, the ATR engine is an airbreathing jet engine. Due to its parameters, it is a suitable engine for both the subsonic and supersonic flight phases of our hyperplane. Later next year, we plan to fly the next iteration of the prototype with both ATR and a second hydrogen rocket engine — it will be the configuration for our commercial vehicles.”

Kokorich said he expected Destinus' first payloads to be relief and emergency cargos -- specifically for medical emergencies like transplants and cancer treatments.

There are significant regulatory hurdles that Destinus will have to overcome on its way to having a zero-emission hypersonic autonomous aircraft in service and able to reach destinations around the world.

TechCrunch noted that the company has real traction with European regulators and local ones in the company's home base of Switzerland.

“We have begun to work with both the European and national regulators to prepare new certification and regulatory requirements for the hyperplane,” Kokorich told TechCrunch. “There is currently an active effort between the national and European regulators to define certification requirements and regulations for autonomous aircraft and high-speed systems such as suborbital, hypersonic, and supersonic aircraft.”


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