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Virgin Galactic unveils Mach 3 aircraft and Rolls-Royce deal

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
The Mach 3 aircraft design. Graphic: Virgin Galactic
The Mach 3 aircraft design. Illustration: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic (SPCE) has unveiled a new high speed aircraft design, as well as a deal with Rolls-Royce (RR.L) to collaborate in designing and developing the vehicle’s engine propulsion technology.

The company is working with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Center for Emerging Concepts and Innovation in order to certify the aircraft, which is known as the Mach 3.

Rolls-Royce has “a proven record of delivering high Mach propulsion, powering the only civil-certified commercial aircraft (Concorde) capable of supersonic flight,” according to a statement from Virgin Galactic.

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.”

Virgin Galactic Mach 3 design. Image: Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic Mach 3 design. Illustraion: Virgin Galactic

“We are excited to partner with Virgin Galactic and TSC to explore the future of sustainable high speed flight,” said Tom Bell, CEO and chairman of Rolls-Royce North America.

The company said: “The design philosophy of the aircraft is geared around making high speed travel practical, sustainable, safe, and reliable, while making customer experience a top priority.”

READ MORE: Sir Richard Branson agrees to sell part of Virgin Galactic to fund his empire

Virgin Galactic is designing the aircraft for a range of operational scenarios, including service for passengers on long-distance commercial aviation routes.

The announcement comes at a time when the aviation industry is in free fall, following wide-ranging coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, in March agreed to sell shares worth around $500m (£405m) in Virgin Galactic to raise funds for his struggling airline and leisure businesses.

Watch: See inside the plane that could take you into space