Virgin Galactic Partners With Rolls-Royce and Unveils Supersonic Aircraft Design

Aerospace and space travel company Virgin Galactic Holdings (NYSE: SPCE) today announced that it has a new agreement with Rolls-Royce Holdings (OTC: RYCEY) to collaborate on a high speed aircraft. Rolls-Royce was the maker of the engines for the Concorde commercial supersonic jet that ceased operation in 2003.

Virgin Galactic recently successfully completed a "concept review program" with representatives from NASA, and a branch of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will now work with the company on a certification plan for the high-speed aircraft. 

Artist's rendering of the new Mach 3 aircraft flying at high altitude

Image source: Virgin Galactic.

The initial design plan is a Mach 3, "delta-wing" aircraft that could accommodate between nine and 19 people, will fly at an altitude above 60,000 feet, and will allow for custom layouts to accommodate customer preferences, including business or first-class seating arrangements. George Whitesides, chief space officer at Virgin Galactic, was quoted in a press release as saying the company envisions the aircraft "as blending safe and reliable commercial travel with an unrivaled customer experience."

The non-binding agreement to work with Rolls-Royce is not the first partnership with an aerospace company. Previously, Boeing invested $20 million in Virgin Galactic through its venture arm, HorizonX. Brian Schettler, senior managing director of Boeing HorizonX Ventures said in 2019 that the relatively small investment was "really to catalyze a bigger partnership and align the companies to explore the future of high-speed mobility and commercial access to space," reported CNBC.

The concept for the latest aircraft is for it to take off and land similar to current commercial airplanes using existing airport infrastructure. The company envisions using it for multiple scenarios, including long-distance passenger travel routes. 

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