This week in our Startup Spotlight blog series is our 2022 XTC Mobility Runner-Up Winner – New Frontier Aerospace!
Six Questions for Bill Bruner – CEO and Co-founder of New Frontier Aerospace
From 2007 to 2009, Bill was the Assistant Administrator for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs (OLIA) at NASA. Under Bill’s leadership, the OLIA team directed all of NASA’s relations with the U.S. Congress, governors, state legislators and local governments.
Prior to joining NASA, Bill had a distinguished career as an aviator in the U.S. Air Force, from which he retired as Colonel. Among his decorations is the Bronze Star, awarded for service in the First Gulf War. He then served in several key positions in Washington — among them as a space and airpower expert on the staff of the Secretary of the Air Force; as a Military Fellow in the Office of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; and as an Office Director within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he won the Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul H. Nitze Award for Excellence in International Security Affairs.
Bill is a graduate of the National War College, the Air Force Fighter Weapons School, and the Air Force’s School of Advanced Air and Space Power Studies — where his thesis topic was “National Security Implications of Inexpensive Space Access.” He has earned master’s degrees, with distinction, in National Security Strategy and Airpower Arts and Sciences. His bachelor’s degree in Physical Science (Astronomy) is from San Francisco State University.
1. What problem is NEW FRONTIER AEROSPACE solving and how?
Jetliner speed has been stagnant over the past 65 years. Today’s jetliners are actually slower than a 1958 Boeing 707 – so international trips take all day and are miserable. More importantly, current jets are too slow to get perishable organs (such as hearts & lungs) across the continent in time to save transplant patients’ lives. Also, airliners dump a billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year; long runways have a huge environmental footprint; and airports consume hundreds of acres of valuable land – often impacting wetlands and waterways.
New Frontier Aerospace is building a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), Renewable Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG)-fueled hypersonic Intercontinental ‘rocketliner’ to replace jetliners.
10x faster and 4x higher than today’s jets. VTOL reduces the geographic footprint. Biosourced RLNG has a net carbon negative fuel pathway. Intercontinental’s ultra-high-altitude flight path makes the sonic boom barely audible on the ground. And critical cargo, such as perishable organs can be delivered thousands of miles in less than 60 minutes!
2. What is your background that led YOU to founding NEW FRONTIER AEROSPACE?
I was a Mach 2 Air Force aviator and a senior leader at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. My background has been in space technology and national security strategy at NASA, on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon, I have been an advocate for hypersonic VTOL transportation for decades – and now that the technology is ready, I am passionate about making it available to air travelers, cargo carriers and government customers.
3. What is unique about your technology and what is the validation status?
As you may know, even though pictures of airplanes make the cover of Aviation Week, the magic key to every new aircraft program is the engine. New Frontier has a lot of IP and innovative thinking in both our airframe – which is largely 3D-printed with heat resistant metals – and in our 3D-printed MJÖLNIR engine which is the only fuel flow staged combustion cycle (FFSC) engine in the world available for sale. In 2021, NFA was awarded a $750K contract from the Department of Defense’s National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC) program to develop Mjölnir’s first, key component – which was a great validation that we were really on to something.
4. What are your Go-To-Market ideas and traction received so far?
Again, at the end of the day, the key to accelerating aerospace progress into the hypersonic era is safe, affordable, sustainable, high sortie-rate engines, so that’s our strongest foot forward and low-hanging fruit. As I noted, it is the first FFSC engine in the world available for sale and we already have letters of intent to buy it from a space tourism company, a space robotics company and a cislunar transportation/lander company and are actively pre-selling the Intercontinental aircraft to the world’s largest airlines and express air cargo carriers.
5. What’s next?
Well, just last week (21-February) DOD NSIC awarded us a $1.5M contract extension to complete the development and initial testing of Mjölnir – with a hot fire of the completed engine by May of 2024. That was based on the fact that New Frontier completed design, 3D printing and testing the first, key component of Mjölnir in less than 1 year, so it’s both another validation point and a path forward. Mjölnir’s development and sales will provide the foundation for NFA’s long-term plan to build a hypersonic aircraft for delivering passengers and cargo safely to any airport or vertiport on Earth in less than two hours.
6. Tell us about your experience with XTC and what were the benefits/takeaways?
We are so very grateful for the opportunity to pitch live on stage at the XTC Global Finals last year at Tech Crunch Sessions: Climate. And then, as part of XTC’s winners pavilion at TC Disrupt we were able to meet CVCs from Lockheed Martin, Japan Airlines and others and able to connect with several potential customers and partners. The inclusion in XTC’s ecosystem has been quite valuable along with XTC’s ongoing Alumni promotion – – whether social media about our NSIC Award or your February posting on Black-founded ventures and now this Spotlight interview! XTC is a powerful, passionate startup community with great leadership and we are very glad to be a part of it.
Interviewed and edited by John Martin
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