Virgin Galactic debuted a new, high-speed commercial aircraft design capable of flying much lower than other passenger spacecraft, according to a press release.
Designed to soar at speeds beyond Mach 3 — faster than the average Mach-2 cruising speed of the original Concorde — it comes along with a new partnership between the company and Rolls-Royce, a long-time world-leader in aircraft engine manufacturing.
Virgin Galactic has unveiled new Mach 3 commercial aircraft design
The Spaceship Company, a subsidiary of Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc, declared the first-stage design scope for the high-speed aircraft, along with the signing of "a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding," (MOU) with Rolls-Royce to design and develop the advanced propulsion technology for the forthcoming aircraft, according to the press release.
This comes on the heels of the program obtaining new authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Center for Emerging Concepts and Innovation to collaborate with Virgin Galactic, reports Tech Crunch.
The project will focus on customer experience and environmental sustainability, read the press release.
Space-age performance, commercial availability
In May, Virgin Galactic announced a new partnership with NASA to develop a high-altitude, high-speed travel solution for commercial airline passengers. According to Tech Crunch, the design philosophy involves building an aircraft with a flight ceiling above 60,000 ft (18,288 m) — the nominal cruising altitude of the Concorde — while ferrying 9 to 19 people per flight.
The aircraft's cabin is designed to offer every passenger either a Business or First-Class-level seating and service experience. Perhaps most notably, the design also calls for the aircraft to be powered by next-gen sustainable fuel — to maintain fully-eco-friendly operation.
Similarities to NASA's X-59 Quiet Supersonic
Interestingly, this project holds many goals in common with NASA's X-59 Quiet Supersonic research aircraft. Both hope to move the industry to further research and development of high-Mach A-to-B travel — and Virgin wants to "act as a catalyst to adoption in the rest of the aviation community" via the development of a new, foundational "sustainable technologies and techniques."
Boom Supersonic (BS) is another company working on supersonic flight and plans to debut and move forward with testing for its XB-1 prototype in October. BS, too, has a brand-new partnership with Rolls-Royce, to collaborate in the design and manufacturing of the engines for its forthcoming Overture commercial plane.