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  • Writer's pictureBen Abrams

Virgin Galactic & Rolls Royce Reveal First Look of Mach 3 Supersonic Aircraft Project

August 6, 2020 By: Ben Cohen

Virgin Galactic has partnered with Rolls Royce to unveil a first look of a supersonic jet design, capable of traveling speeds 3x faster than the speed of sound.

Virgin Galactic & Rolls Royce Reveal First Look at Mac 3 Supersonic Jet Project - Photo Virgin Galactic

On Monday (Aug 3) The Spaceship Company, a division of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic aerospace manufacturing arm that builds the company’s space planes, is now working on developing an ultra high-speed commercial aircraft capable of flying at Mach 3 speed and above 60,000 feet. The first concept images and design were unveiled along with the announcement of NASA’s approval on Virgin’s completed mission concept.

The Virgin team will collaborate with luxury giant Rolls Royce in design and development of the aircraft. They aim to have the vehicle Mach 3 certified with delta-shaped wings. The aircraft will seat between 9 - 19 passengers.

Much like a commercial aircraft, the supersonic aircraft will offer a variety of seating options, including business class and first class. With the mission concept review complete, Virgin Galactic can now progress to the next design phase. The project is separate from Virgin’s bid to send passengers to space on their SpaceshipTwo craft.

While Rolls-Royce might be best known for their luxury cars, the British company previously developed the turbojet that powered the famed supersonic airliner the Concorde, which flew at Mach 2.04, about 2x the speed of sound.

Supersonic passenger flights were halted in October 2003 when the Concorde retired. No other company has since taken on the market for ultra-speed air travel. The allure of super speed aircrafts that would shorten trips to just hours has the potential to disrupt the regular commercial airline market, which has already been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Morgan Stanley forecasted Virgin Galactic’s supersonic profit potential at the tune of $800 billion in annual sales by 2040 back in December 2019.

“A viable space tourism business is what you pay for today … but a chance to disrupt the multi-trillion-dollar airline [total addressable market] is what is really likely to drive the upside,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a note to investors.

In a statement, Virgin Galactic announced that high-speed aircraft would take off and land like any other passenger aircraft and be expected to integrate into existing airport infrastructures around the world.

Meanwhile, NASA and Lockheed Martin are developing the X-59 X-plane, a supersonic jet aimed at quieting sonic booms. All these projects follow in the high-speed footsteps of the Concorde.

Virgin Galactic has yet to release the name of the aircraft or how much a seating will cost.

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