SES to Explore the Possibility of Suborbital Organ Transportation

Full Scale High Temperature Wing Bending Test Facility. Credit: SES.

Edmonton-based Space Engine Systems (SES) will be exploring the possibility of providing hypersonic organ transportation, according to an SES press release from earlier this week.

As mentioned in our earlier coverage, SES has been working on building a spaceplane—specifically a horizontally launched Single-Stage-to-Orbit aircraft (SSTO) that can use a combination ramjet and rocket engine to take off from a runway, launch into space, and land again on a runway after returning. 

Though the company has had difficulties attracting support in Canada, and has pivoted to exploring opportunities in the United States and United Kingdom, SES CEO Pradeep Dass said in an interview with SpaceQ this week that they remain steadfast in their goal of building a spaceplane that can achieve orbit and, eventually, reach the Moon. 

Dass describes SES as a “trucking company to space,” one that’s focused on using its hypersonic vehicle to transport goods into orbit and (eventually) to the Moon. In their recent release, SES said that they are also exploring point-to-point terrestrial transportation, and specifically on medical transportation. In the release, they said that Dass learned about this possibility thanks to a conversation with Dr. Jayan Nagendran, the Surgical Director of Lung Transplantation at the University of Alberta and Director of the Division of Cardiac Surgery at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute

Dr. Nagendran reached out to Dass, saying that he was facing serious difficulties due to the inability to transport lungs for transplant quickly enough. Even if appropriate lungs became available, there simply may not be enough time to transport the organs in time to save the patient. Dass said to SpaceQ that this could be a possible use for hypersonic vehicles: that they could transplant lungs or hearts between Australia and Canada (for example), in a little over three hours, as opposed to the 14-21 hours it could take on a conventional flight. Dass said that believes that this could be a valuable civilian use case for their “Hello-1” hypersonic vehicle. 

(Nagendran is also the Chief Medical Officer of a SES spin-off, Ummini Corporation founded in mid-2021, where he’s researching the development of artificial lung devices that can “bridge patients for lung transportation.”)

SES has three vehicles in development or production: the Hello-1X test vehicle which will be testing SES’s DASS GNX turbo ramjet engine; the Hello-1 which uses a conventional turbojet engine, the DASS ramjet to achieve suborbital hypersonic flight, allowing for deployment to LEO using a transfer vehicle; and the Hello-2 vehicle, which will be Dass’  true SSTO vehicle. The test vehicle is complete and is awaiting regulatory approval for testing, the Hello-1 vehicle is already being built, and the Hello-2 vehicle is in the developmental stage.  

Dass said that even aside from the possibility of medical deliveries, they’re already taking orders for satellite deliveries on the Hello-1X and Hello-1. 

Their biggest issue is getting the opportunity to perform testing. Dass said that a major reason why they’d expanded to the United States and the United Kingdom was because “we applied to Transport Canada to fly from Lynn Lake, Manitoba…[but] we realized that by the time Transport Canada were to ever approve us, it’d probably be years away.”

They’ve also developed a hypersonic drone, idiosyncratically named the “Sexbomb,” which they believe could have a variety of defence applications.  As the Canadian government also seemed to show little interest in the hypersonic drone, according to Dass, they began the process of moving it to the UK. The hypersonic drone will now be tested at the Cornwall Spaceport, according to an SES release from earlier this month.   

Meanwhile, the Hello-1X is being prepared for testing in the United States, and they’re still aiming for a 2023 test. Dass said that it depends on American regulators, but that “we think we have a very good chance for flying to Mojave”. He said that they’re working on their FAA applications, and that they “want the FAA to work with us as we submit our application.” He’s relying on the fact that many of the components of the Hello-1X test vehicle are well-known and familiar, like the General Electric J79 turbojet engine it uses in conjunction with the experimental DASS GNX engine. 

Finally, as noted in previous coverage, SES is focused on attracting high-quality talent. While Dass had said in previous comments to SpaceQ that “the company has separate entities registered in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom to allow Canadians to work in these various regions,” their recent release stated that they were now looking for American citizens for their U.S. efforts, Canadian citizens for their work in Canada, and British citizens for work in the UK. 

Dass said to SpaceQ that they’re getting a lot of applicants in the U.S. and UK, and that they’re still “aggressively hiring” in all three regions.

For now SES is primarily self-funded through CAN-K Canada, an oil and gas engineering company Dass founded in 1991. Dass had previously told SpaceQ in 2019 that at the time they we’re selling a round of shares with a total valuation of $90 million dollars. It’s unclear how successful SES has been in raising funds.

About Craig Bamford

Craig started writing for SpaceQ in 2017 as their space culture reporter, shifting to Canadian business and startup reporting in 2019. He is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, and has a Master's Degree in International Security from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He lives in Toronto.

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