Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will work with engine maker Rolls-Royce to develop a plane that can travel at three times the speed of sound.
The recruitment of Rolls-Royce, which provided the engines for Concorde – the world’s only civil-certified supersonic aircraft to date – is aimed at devising a propulsion system that’s both cutting-edge and sustainable, Virgin Galactic chief space officer George Whiteside said on Monday.
The Spaceship Co, Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing division, is seeking to develop a Mach 3 delta-winged aircraft that would fly at an altitude above 60,000 feet and carry between nine and 16 people in a premium cabin, while taking off and landing like any other passenger plane at existing airports.
Plans for a return to supersonic passenger flight following Concorde’s exit from service in 2003 have been gathering pace over the past decade. That push has been called into question as aviation becomes a prime target for climate campaigners, with projects now facing the challenge of cutting carbon emissions and reducing noise as well as making flights viable.