The Spaceship Company (TSC), Virgin Galactic's aerospace-system manufacturing arm that builds the company's SpaceShipTwo space planes, is now working to develop a high-speed commercial aircraft capable of flying at Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound.
Today (Aug. 3), TSC announced the completion of a mission concept review and unveiled the initial design concept for a high-speed aircraft. They also announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding with Rolls-Royce to collaborate in design and development for the craft.
Rolls-Royce might seem like an odd choice, but the company, known for its luxury cars, previously developed the turbojet that powered the famed supersonic airliner the Concorde, which flew at Mach 2.04, or just over twice the speed of sound.
Concorde certainly isn't the only commercial supersonic jet for TSC's ambitious aircraft to contend with.
Boom Technology, which partnered with Virgin Galactic in 2017, has been developing the XB-1, their supersonic vehicle, set to debut Oct. 7. Spike Aerospace is also developing a supersonic business jet. 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, which flew from 1969 to 2003, the Soviet supersonic passenger airliner Tupolev Tu-144 flew from 1968 to 1999.
TSC hopes that their vehicle will be a Mach 3 certified aircraft with delta-shaped wings able to seat between 9 and 19 passengers at a time and fly at an altitude above 60,000 feet (18,300 meters). The company also aims to have a variety of seating options, including business or first class. The high-speed craft would "would take off and land like any other passenger aircraft and be expected to integrate into existing airport infrastructure and international airspace around the world," Virgin Galactic announced in a statement today.
With the mission concept review complete, TSC can now progress to the next design phase, according to the statement.
"We strive to develop sustainable, cutting-edge propulsion systems for the aircraft, and we are pleased to be working with the FAA to ensure our designs can make a practical impact from the start," Virgin Galactic Chief Space Officer George Whitesides said in the statement. "We have made great progress so far, and we look forward to opening up a new frontier in high-speed travel."
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