Destinus, the start-up that dreams of testing hypersonic flight in Rochefort

Posted on November 3, 2022, 7:04 am

Serial entrepreneur Mikhail Kokorich, who created Destinus last year in hopes of developing hydrogen-powered hypersonic flight, has just joined his Michel Friedling team. A nice prize of war knowing that he was the first general of the French Air Force to assume the head of the Space Command created in 2018 by the former Minister of Armies Florence Parly.

replaced by 1er last July by General Philippe Adam, Michel Friedling, who left the army, said he wanted to work for the Swiss start-up out of admiration for Mikhail Kokorich and out of conviction. “France, which has missed out on many technological changes, cannot remain a spectator in the face of the challenge of carbon-free hypersonic aviation,” he told Les Echos.

The general thus joins Destinus’ strategic committee, which also includes Pedro Duque, a former astronaut and Spanish science minister, and Philipp Rösler, a former German vice chancellor and minister of the economy. He will be the defender in France of the Russian physicist’s dream: “travel at hypersonic speed to reach every point of the globe in less than two hours”.

Destinus wants to count in France

In the aerospace industry, Mikhail Kokorich has already acquired a solid reputation. Her first start-up, Dauria Aerospace, was created in Russia, but later the talented launched in the United States, Astro Digital, Helios Wire and Momentus. If it weren’t for the US Department of Defense’s distrust of him because of his Russian nationality, he would still be ahead of Momentus, which went public last year based on a valuation of half a billion dollars.

But having failed to renew his green card, the businessman joined Switzerland in early 2021, where he created Destinus. He was followed by American investors in these former companies, which allowed him to raise around 35 million dollars, of which more than half came from American funds and the remainder, mainly from German and Swiss funds.

Destinus now wants to become better known in France. Mikhail Kokorich tells Les Echos that he would like to become a French resident and integrate more into the country he considers the best equipped in terms of aeronautics. Accompanied by a growing number of exiled Russian engineers, he says he spends two hours a day studying French.

Third prototype under construction

To fuel its dreams of a hydrogen rocket plane capable of flying at Mach 5, Destinus has taken the first steps. “To design a vessel of this type, you need to find an almost impossible design to combine low-speed flight stability and optimal hypersonic, while integrating a hydrogen fuel fifteen times lighter than kerosene,” explains the founder. , showing designs for planes whose shape, between a rocket and a balloon, resembles that of penguins.

With a team of 70 employees, soon to be 100, Destinus has just completed the test flights of its second prototype, called the Eiger (see photo). The latter works at low speed, but the third prototype, which will have to fly at Mach 1.5, is already under construction. Mikhail Kokorich, who dreams of a destiny worthy of his compatriot, Igor Sikorsky, founder of the helicopter company Sikorsky Aicraft Corp, would like to obtain authorizations to test it at the airport in Rochefort, France. Other options are being studied, mainly in Andalusia. This device will be equipped with a “custom” General Electric 85 engine with liquid hydrogen afterburning. “First we want to build a hybrid engine before going to 100% hydrogen,” explains Mikhail Kokorich.

global hypersonic race

Funding for the third prototype is secured, but Destinus will then need to raise a hundred million to continue the adventure. Mikhail Kokorich, close to François Chopard, founder of the Starburst accelerator specializing in aerospace, has no doubts: “One hundred million to build the first plane capable of flying Mach 5 on hydrogen is not expensive,” he says. Destinus has just booked its stand at the Paris Air Show to convince everyone. In the new hypersonic race, which mobilizes many projects in the United States, the Russian entrepreneur especially hopes that Europe will maintain its position.

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