Virgin Galactic unveils designs for Mach 3 commercial passenger jet

Marco Green
August 4, 2020

The aircraft's draft design showed a plane with a triangular "delta wing" carrying between nine and 19 passengers at an altitude of more than 60,000 feet, or 18,000 meters - about twice as high as normal commercial flight.

The plane, the company added, "would take off and land like any other passenger aircraft and be expected to integrate into existing airport infrastructure and global airspace around the world".

Virgin Galactic has taken the wraps off a concept for an airplane capable of flying three times the speed of sound, to be developed with support from Boeing and Rolls-Royce. It also has formed a partnership with Rolls-Royce "to collaborate in designing and developing engine propulsion technology for high speed commercial aircraft". A first prototype is being built by Lockheed-Martin in California.

"We are excited to. unveil this initial design concept of a high speed aircraft, which we envision as blending safe and reliable commercial travel with an unrivalled customer experience", said George Whitesides, chief space officer at Virgin Galactic.

"We have made great progress so far, and we look forward to opening up a new frontier in high speed travel", he added.

The company provided no timetable for development.

Pricing for seats have not been revealed, but Virgin Galactic is selling spots on its tourist spaceplane for $250,000. Rolls-Royce is also responsible for the engine of the Concorde, the only supersonic commercial aircraft ever used for passenger travel.

Meanwhile, Aerion Supersonic, Boom Supersonic and Spike Aerospace are among a new crop of supersonic startups hoping to field planes and win FAA certification in the years ahead.

A Virgin Galactic executive previously told Business Insider that the company thinks high-speed passenger travel could be a $15 billion annual business. Today's announcement suggests that Virgin Galactic is now moving in a different direction.

This isn't the only supersonic jet in creation.

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. "Nope, not April 1", Aviation Week's Steve Trimble tweeted. "The competition will be doing Mach 25".

That's not to say it will be easy or low-priced to reclaim, improve, and expand such business territory, but Whitesides said Virgin Galactic was up to the challenge, even in the face of failures in creating supersonic and even hypersonic passenger vehicles.

The Mach 3 aircraft design.

This report was first published on Cosmic Log.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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