Virgin Galactic is still aiming to send tourists to space, but the space tourism company is also looking at how to whiz people across our planet as quickly as possible.
Virgin Galactic has premiered a new jet design for high speed air travel: a streamlined, Concorde-esque delta-wing aircraft with capacity for nine to 19 people cruising at an altitude of over 60,000 feet.
The super-fast jet will travel at Mach 3 – three times faster than the speed of sound.
Virgin Galactic has also announced a partnership with Rolls-Royce to design and develop engine propulsion technology for futuristic high speed commercial aircraft like this one. Rolls-Royce is known for its airplane engine design and notably designed the engine that fueled the supersonic Concorde, which traveled at Mach 2.
There are other influential heavyweights advising Virgin Galactic, too. In May, Virgin Galactic signed a deal with NASA to share expertise and resources.
Virgin Galactic also announced this supersonic jet concept recently passed a mission concept review, which confirmed that the concept “can meet the high-level requirements and objectives of the mission.”
“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 an unrivaled customer experience,” said George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s chief space officer.
Ready for next phase
Virgin Galactic envisages the jet ferrying passengers on long-distance commercial air routes – and the idea is its interior could accommodate custom cabin layouts, including business or first class seating.
The jet would take off and land in the regular way.
The concept is now ready to progress to the next phase of design, which Virgin Galactic says will involve defining the specifics of how the aircraft will operate, not to mention looking at potential challenges including maintenance, noise, emissions and economics.
“We have made great progress so far, and we look forward to opening up a new frontier in high speed travel,” added Whitesides.
Other jets in the works
This isn’t the only supersonic jet in creation.
Denver-based start-up Boom Supersonic announced plans for test flights for a scaled prototype of its supersonic commercial jet Overture to take place in 2021. Test flights for Overture are scheduled for 2025. Overture is designed to seat from 55 to 75 people and travel at Mach 2.2.
Another concept in development is AS2. The brainchild of US company Aerion Corporation, the AS2 would travel at Mach 1.4.