Virgin Galactic, an aerospace and space travel company that’s part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, is on track to develop a new generation of high-speed aircrafts that will shorten the trip from London to New York to one-and-a-half hours, from the average seven-and-a-half hours it currently takes.
The company’s supersonic jet has recently completed a “Mission Concept Review” by a panel including representatives from NASA, which concluded that “under the latest available data and research, the concept would meet the mission’s requirements,” the company said in a release earlier this week.
The company also revealed its initial design concept of the high-speed aircraft, collaborating with Rolls-Royce in designing and developing engine-propulsion technology.
With a targeted speed of Mach 3, or about 2,300 miles per hour, the aircraft could fly from London to New York in 90 minutes, or from London to Sydney in less than five hours. The company did not disclose how soon the aircraft will take test flights.
The delta-wing aircraft will have capacity for nine to 19 people, flying at an altitude above 60,000 feet, the company said. The interior cabins can be customized, and the aircraft design will also aim to incorporate the state-of-the-art sustainable aviation fuel.
“We are pleased to collaborate with the innovative team at Rolls-Royce as we strive to develop sustainable, cutting-edge propulsion systems for the aircraft,” George Whitesides, chief space officer at Virgin Galactic, said in the release. “We have made great progress so far, and we look forward to opening up a new frontier in high speed travel.”
Rolls-Royce has developed cutting-edge technologies that deliver high-Mach propulsion. Rolls-Royce powered the Concorde supersonic flights, which set a record time for a flight between London and New York in 1996 at three hours.
Concorde, a supersonic aircraft co-funded by the British and French governments, was in service for almost 30 years. A deadly accident in 2000 in France, combined with the high expense of operating the aircraft, and a global economic downturn after 9/11, led to its demise in 2003.
In recent years, a few startups, including Denver-based Boom Supersonic, Boston-based Spike Aerospace, and Reno, Nev.-based Aerion Corp., have joined commercial airplane giants Boeing and Airbus, as well as NASA in reviving supersonics that are safe and economically viable.
Boom Supersonic is developing a 55-seat aircraft, XB-1, with a high speed of 2.2, which is expected to be delivered in 2025. Spike is expected to deliver the S-512, an 18-passenger luxury supersonic aircraft which will fly at Mach 1.6 sometime around 2023 or 2024. Aerion Corp. is aiming to deliver its supersonic aircrafts in 2025.