Virgin Galactic Enters The Supersonic Flight Race With Mach 3 Aircraft

Virgin Galactic is eying a place in the race to realize supersonic flight. The space travel company today revealed the initial design of its proposed Mach 3 aircraft. Simultaneously, a memorandum of understanding was signed with the British propulsion company, Rolls-Royce.

Virgin Galactic, Mach 3 Aircraft, Supersonic
Virgin Galactic today revealed its Mach 3 aircraft design. Photo: Virgin Galactic

For years we’ve been watching as the Virgin Group consistently aims up. Not content with airlines, the company has been aiming higher. Virgin Orbit seeks to introduce satellite launch from an airborne Boeing 747. Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic has been hard at work, attempting to make space tourism a reality. Now the latter is also poking its head into supersonic flight.

Flying at Mach 3

Virgin Galactic today announced a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Rolls-Royce, having completed a Mission Concept Review (MCR) for its Mach 3 supersonic aircraft. In conjunction with representatives from NASA, the MCR saw Virgin Galactic outline several critical parameters for the new aircraft.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

The company is targeting a Mach 3 aircraft, that is to say, one that flies at three times the speed of sound. The aircraft will follow a similar rough design to Concorde with a delta wing. For reference, Concorde had a max speed of Mach 2.04.

Virgin Galactic, Mach 3 Aircraft, Supersonic
The aircraft has now completed a mission concept review. Photo: Virgin Galactic

However, unlike Concorde, the aircraft would have a much-reduced payload of just 9-19 passengers while cruising higher than 60,000 feet. The aircraft would be configurable in first and business class configurations depending on the needs.

What’s next?

Now that the MCR has been completed, Virgin Galactic will begin work on finalizing the aircraft design. The team working on the aircraft will look to set the design of specific systems, in addition to working out which materials will be used to construct the plane.

This will need to take into account thermal management. Other considerations yet to be taken into account include such challenges as to how the aircraft will be maintained, as well as its noise, emissions, and economics.

Virgin Galactic, Mach 3 Aircraft, Supersonic
The company is now set to work on nailing down the design. Photo: Virgin Galactic

Rolls Royce collaboration

Alongside the aircraft announcement, Virgin Galactic revealed that it would look to work with the British aviation propulsion experts, Rolls-Royce, to collaborate on engine development for the new aircraft. Rolls-Royce certainly has a fair idea of what it is doing when it comes to powering supersonic airliners.

The engine manufacturer previously built the Olympus 593 with Snecma that powered the Concorde. It seems as though the manufacture is also in high demand when it comes to supersonic flight. Last week, Simple Flying reported that it had signed an agreement with Boom Supersonic.

Virgin Galactic, Mach 3 Aircraft, Supersonic
Virgin Galactic also signed an MoU with Rolls Royce regarding the aircraft’s propulsion system. Photo: Virgin Galactic

Commenting on today’s announcement, George Whitesides, Chief Space Officer, Virgin Galactic said,

“We are excited to complete the Mission Concept Review and unveil this initial design concept of a high speed aircraft, which we envision as blending safe and reliable commercial travel with an unrivalled customer experience. 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.”

What do you think of the new Virgin Galactic Mach 3 aircraft? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!