Supersonic flights returning; Virgin Galactic to work with Rolls-Royce

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Virgin Galactic's Supersonic Airplane
Virgin Galactic's Supersonic Airplane

Billionaire Richard Branson’s Space Tourism Company Virgin Galactic has unveiled preliminary designs of its proposed commercial supersonic passenger jet after signing an agreement with aerospace veteran Rolls-Royce. 

Virgin is expected to use its expertise with Virgin Galactic space flight vessels to create a Mach 3 delta-wing aircraft (Three times the speed of sound) which is expected to accommodate a maximum of 19 passengers and fly at an altitude above 60,000 feet.

Virgin Galactic's Supersonic Airplane
Virgin Galactic’s Supersonic Airplane

Rolls-Royce who has been well known for aircraft engine designs was behind the last supersonic flight service British-French Concorde which was retired in 2003.

“We have made great progress so far, and we look forward to opening up a new frontier in high-speed travel,” said George Whitesides, Chief Space Officer at Virgin Galactic.

The group said that collaborated with NASA to complete a mission concept review of its supersonic vehicle design and will now work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to create a framework for certifying the aircraft for flight.

Another aviation giant Boeing’s venture arm has also made a $20 million infusion in Virgin Galactic, specifically toward helping the company build a supersonic aircraft.

Virgin Galactic’s new revelation puts it into a development race against a few other private firms, some of which have been working on next-generation supersonic aircraft for several years. Boom Supersonic, Aerion Supersonic, and Spike Aerospace each are working on supersonic jets who were expected to conduct test flights as early as 2023 or 2024 before the coronavirus pandemic hit the aviation sector.