Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company has been making headlines with announcements about its space tourism progress. The commercial spaceport's renderings were released last year, and they revealed photos of the luxurious interiors of its Spaceship Two vehicle, VSS Unity, in July. Now, the aeronautical company is in another air travel race, but this time with supersonic jets.
They just announced that they are working with Rolls-Royce to develop engines for a jet that could fly 19 people at 2,300 miles per hour, taking you from London to New York in 90 minutes. The interiors could be customized to be first or business class seats, making the journey quick and comfortable.
And it all seems possible as the design just passed the "Mission Concept Review," a panel of representatives from NASA. They found that the concept is plausible and meets the requirements. "The aircraft would take off and land like any other passenger aircraft and be expected to integrate into existing airport infrastructure and international airspace around the world," it said in the statement.
The next step for the company will be to determine the aircraft's design, architectures, and materials. Virginia Galactic already said they hope to use sustainable aviation fuel in the project. The FAA has agreed to work with the Virgin team to help outline the certification framework necessary.
This design goes up against competitors like Aerion Corporation and Boom, who are also working to develop a Mach 3 capable jet. But Rolls-Royce already provided the engines for the only other commercial supersonic jet: the Concorde. In 1996, it flew between London and New York at the record-breaking time of three hours. Virgin Galactic's new design could cut that in half.
"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 a statement. "We have made great progress so far, and we look forward to opening up a new frontier in high-speed travel."