Virgin Galactic is making strides toward its goal of creating high-speed commercial aircraft that operates a little closer to Earth than its existing passenger spacecraft. The company revealed the initial design of the commercial passenger airplane it’s creating that’s designed to fly at speeds in excess of Mach 3 faster than the average cruising speed of around Mach 2 that the original Concorde achieved.
This concept design comes alongside a new partnership for Virgin Galactic, by way of a memorandum of understanding that the company signed with Rolls-Royce, one of the world’s leading aircraft engine makers. Rolls-Royce is also responsible for the engine of the Concorde, one of the only supersonic commercial aircraft ever used for passenger travel.
“The design philosophy of the aircraft is geared around making high speed travel practical, sustainable, safe, and reliable, while making customer experience a top priority,” Virgin Galactic wrote in a press release.
In some ways, this project has many of the same goals that NASA has with its X-59 Quiet Supersonic research aircraft. Both aim to inspire the industry at large to do more to pursue the development of high-Mach point-to-point travel, and Virgin says that one of its aims is to “act as a catalyst to adoption in the rest of the aviation community” by coming up with baseline “sustainable technologies and techniques.”
While there’s still plenty of work to be done, this initial design gives us a glimpse into the future of high-speed air travel. We’ve already seen what Virgin Galactic’s space tourism will look like.