Virgin Galactic Unveils Mach 3 Aircraft

New aircraft—in concert with Rolls-Royce—will operate from regular commercial airports.

Virgin Galatic aircraft
The new supersonic aircraft will carry between 9 and 19 people.Virgin Galatic

Virgin Galactic Holdings on August 3 announced—in collaboration with Rolls-Royce as the powerplant provider—the creation of a new Mach 3 commercial aircraft. Virgin Galactic Holdings includes a spaceship manufacturing arm. There’s no small amount of irony that Virgin Galactic made its announcement of its futuristic travel machine within hours of sister Virgin empire organization, Virgin Atlantic Airways, filing for bankruptcy over cash flow issues.

In a news release, Virgin Galactic said, “The Spaceship Company announced the first stage design scope for the build of its high-speed aircraft design and the signing of a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with Rolls-Royce to collaborate in designing and developing engine propulsion technology for high-speed commercial aircraft. This follows the successful completion of its mission concept review program milestone and authorization from the FAA’s Center for Emerging Concepts and Innovation to work with Virgin Galactic to outline a certification framework.”

“The basic parameters of the initial high speed aircraft design include a targeted Mach 3 certified delta-wing aircraft that would have capacity for 9 to 19 people at an altitude above 60,000 feet and would also be able to incorporate custom cabin layouts to address customer needs, including business or first class seating arrangements. The aircraft design also aims to help lead the way toward use of state-of-the-art sustainable aviation fuel. Baselining sustainable technologies and techniques into the aircraft design early on is expected to also act as a catalyst to adoption in the rest of the aviation community. ”Virgin Galactic sees a range of operational scenarios for the new aircraft, including service on long-distance commercial aviation routes. The aircraft will operate to and from traditional passenger airports and is expected to integrate into the existing airport infrastructure and international airspace around the world.

The company offered no timeline for future steps in the new aircraft’s progress.

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