Virgin Galactic's supersonic jet capable of speeds over Mach 3

Daniel Fowler
August 4, 2020

The Spaceship Company, which builds air and space craft for its parent company, Virgin Galactic, announced a new design for a commercial airliner that can fly at three times the speed of sound, as well as a partnership with engine-maker Rolls-Royce, which built the engines for one of the few operational supersonic airliners ever made, the Concorde.

The aircraft is created to be able to take passengers on long-distance commercial aviation routes, taking off and landing like any other passenger aircraft, and able to integrate into existing airport infrastructure and global airspace around the world.

According to Virgin Galactic, the completion of the MCR means that the concept can now go to the next design phase, which will involve defining specific system architectures and configurations, as well as selecting materials for the aircraft construction and dealing with problems related to thermal management, maintenance, noise, emissions, and the economics of operating supersonic aircraft.

The partnership with Rolls-Royce comes after the United Kingdom engine maker last week announced a pact with Boom Technology, one of three start-ups that have been competing to bring a new supersonic market in the next few years.

George Whitesides, chief space officer, Virgin Galactic said, "We are excited to complete the Mission Concept Review and unveil this initial design concept of a high-speed aircraft, which we envision as blending safe and reliable commercial travel with unrivaled customer experience".

The outline accord with Rolls-Royce comes after the Virgin Galactic programme cleared a mission-concept review that included representatives from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration backed work on an certification framework for the plane. Between 1976 and 2003, the Concorde shuffled affluent passengers from New York City to Paris in 3.5 hours at a maximum speed of Mach 2.

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Since then, NASA has been forced to pay Russia to send people into space on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. A decade on it is another president, Donald Trump, who will attend Wednesday's launch in Florida.

He said Virgin Galactic hoped to leverage its growing flight data and operations experience, along with new research and development, into a new high-speed transportation system.

Pricing for seats have not been revealed, but Virgin Galactic is selling spots on its tourist spaceplane for $250,000.

NASA has also been working for decades on a silent supersonic experimental aircraft, the X-59.

Virgin Galactic is making strides towards its goal of creating high-speed commercial aircraft that operates a little closer to Earth than its existing passenger spacecraft.

Boom also holds tentative orders from Mr Branson's Virgin Group, while the billionaire said in 2017 that Virgin Galactic would play a role in developing the fledgling company's planned plane, building parts of the XB-1 demonstrator that's due to be unveiled in October.

Virgin Galactic stock rose 4% to US$23.33 in early Wall Street trading on Monday.

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