Virgin Galactic shows supersonic passenger plane design
After showing the design of the cabin interior for six private astronauts to experience traveling into earth’s orbit, Virgin Galactic now has unveiled the design of a more ‘down-to-earth’ supersonic passenger plane. It should seat nine to 19 passengers and travel at Mach 3 – faster than the Concorde – at an altitude of 60 000 feet (18 300 m).
Virgin says it signed a memorandum of understanding with jet engine builder Rolls-Royce “to collaborate in designing and developing engine propulsion technology for high-speed commercial aircraft.”
Less thirsty than Concorde
Rolls-Royce used to manufacture Concorde’s engines way back in the seventies. And this time, it should be way less noisy, and energy-devouring than Concorde, and use the standard airports to make it commercially viable.
The joint Concorde project of France and Britain started in 1969 and ultimately stranded in 2003 because fuel costs were too high and only the rich could afford the 11 000 dollar ticket for a ride in a cramped tube where you hardly could stand upright. But the champagne was for free.
With help from NASA
In May, Virgin Galactic already announced it would get some help from NASA too in the development of supersonic passenger jets, and signed a new Space Act Agreement with the American space agency. NASA has a lot of experience in the field and is working with Lockheed Martin on the X-59 QueSST (Quiet Supersonic Transport) supersonic plane.
The Virgin Galactic plane will be developed by Spaceship Company (TSC), Virgin Galactic’s aerospace-system manufacturing branch, which also works on the SpaceShipTwo spaceplanes that are meant to bring private astronauts into orbit. The ultimate goal is to bring air traveling in the future from one point to another to a ‘higher’ level literally by jumping into orbit.
London-Sydney in five hours
But a supersonic plane that flies nearly two times higher than regular airplanes today is an intermediate step. At 3 700 km per hour, three times the speed of sound (1 238 kph), it could fly from London to Sydney in merely five hours. Today that takes 22 hours and 50 minutes with one-stop, 19 hours as Qantas tested in a non-stop flight.
In 2018, US start-up Boom Supersonic claimed it should take off for the first series of test flights by the end of that year with its own supersonic 40- to 50-seat passenger plane. It should be available for commercial flights by 2023. So far, Boom pushed back launch dates and says it will ‘roll-out’ its ‘Baby’ Boom XB-1 to the world on October 7th, 2020.
It’s not the actual passenger plane yet, but a one-third-scale trijet supersonic demonstrator plane, 21 m long, and capable of flying at Mach 2.2 ( 2 716 kph). It accommodates two pilots sitting behind each other like a military jet. The final supersonic passenger airplane should be available for commercial flights by 2023.