Virgin Galactic teams up with NASA to develop ‘high-Mach’ aircraft that could eventually transport civilians at supersonic speeds
- The partnership will look to develop supersonic vehicles for civilian use
- Virgin Galactic and NASA say the vehicles will emphasize sustainability
- Previously Virgin Galactic said it was interested in reaching Mach 3 or Mach 5
Virgin Galactic is partnering with NASA in a bid to bring ultrafast aviation to civilians.
According to a statement from Virgin Galactic, the Space Act Agreement, announced this week, is designed to ‘advance the United States’ efforts to produce technically feasible, high Mach vehicles for potential civil application.’
In a statement Virgin Galactic said those applications could include air travel but didn’t elaborate further on what shape a high-speed vehicles would take.
The VSS Unity (pictured) is one of Virgin Galactic’s commercial ‘moonshots’ that aims to take paying customers on trips through suborbital space
Both NASA and Virgin Galactic did say that the vehicles would take into account sustainability, however.
‘In partnership with NASA, Virgin Galactic believes there are significant opportunities to apply higher speeds to drive technological development to allow industries to adapt to the changing economic and ecological environment,’ wrote the company in a statement.
‘The collaboration will aim to inform the development of national strategies using economic and technical foundations with a focus on sustainability.’
While Virgin Galactic has expressed interest in enabling super-fast aviation for the past several years, this is the first time it will pursue those ventures with the help of NASA or any public agency.
In 2017, the company said it was interest in designing vehicles that could travel between Mach 3 and Mach 5 which is upwards of 2,300 miles-per-hour.
The Virgin Galactic Spaceflight System in front of Spaceport America. The company hired 70 local employees to work at the New Mexico facility
The newest initiative will augment other commercial ventures from Virgin Galactic, including the fruition of its VSS Unity craft that aims to fly customers through sub-orbital space.
VSS Unity recently took its first glide flight in New Mexico. After being released from an altitude of 50,000 feet the craft successfully landed at Spaceport America, marking a major milestone.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CONCORDE: THE FIRST COMMERCIAL SUPERSONIC JET
Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet that was operated until 2003.
It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 k per hour at cruise altitude) and could seat 92 to 128 passengers.
It was first flown in 1969, but needed further tests to establish it as viable as a commercial aircraft.
Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued flying for the next 27 years.
It is one of only two supersonic transports to have been operated commercially.
The other is the Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-144, which ran for a much shorter period of time before it was grounded and retired due to safety and budget issues.
Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet that was operated until 2003. It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 k per hour at cruise altitude) and could seat 92 to 128 passengers
Concorde was jointly developed and manufactured by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty.
Concorde’s name, meaning harmony or union, reflects the cooperation on the project between the United Kingdom and France.
In the UK, any or all of the type are known simply as ‘Concorde’, without an article.
Twenty aircraft were built including six prototypes and development aircraft.
Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) each received seven aircraft.
The research and development failed to make a profit and the two airlines bought the aircraft at a huge discount.
Among other destinations, Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to New York-JFK, Washington Dulles and Barbados.
It flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners.
Over time, the aircraft became profitable when it found a customer base willing to pay for flights on what was for most of its career the fastest commercial airliner in the world.
The aircraft is regarded by many as an aviation icon and an engineering marvel, but it was also criticized for being uneconomical, lacking a credible market, and consuming more fuel to carry fewer passengers than a Boeing 747.
Concorde was retired in 2003 due to a general downturn in the commercial aviation industry after the type’s only crash in 2000, the September 11 attacks in 2001, and a decision by Airbus, the successor to Aérospatiale and BAC, to discontinue maintenance support.