Following the recent news that a number of leading aerospace and defence companies have joined forces to help develop the next generation of combat aircraft, the Tempest, there was more good news for British-based engineering companies.
Virgin Galactic are working towards developing a Mach 3 passenger aircraft and have a non-binding MOU with London-based Rolls-Royce to develop a collaborative propulsion system.
The project is currently in the first stage design scope, which follows the completion of its Mission Concept Review (MCR) and gaining the requisite authorisation from the UK Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The initial design of the aircraft would feature a delta-wing style with a capacity for between 9 and 19 people sitting in custom cabin configurations and flying at an altitude in excess of 60,000 feet. The aircraft would be able to reach speeds of over 2,300mph (3,700kmph).
Virgin Galactic said the aircraft would take off and land like any other passenger aircraft and be expected to integrate into existing airport infrastructure and international airspace globally.
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. We are pleased to collaborate with the innovative team at Rolls-Royce as we strive to develop sustainable, cutting-edge propulsion systems for the aircraft, and we are pleased to be working with the FAA to ensure our designs can make a practical impact from the start.”
The next phase of the design involves designing specific system architectures and ascertaining what materials will be required to address the key challenges faced when developing supersonic aircraft: noise, emissions and thermal management.
As well as their involvement with the Virgin Galactic project, Rolls-Royce recently entered into an engagement to work on Overture, an aircraft being developed by Boom to allow for affordable supersonic flights in excess of Mach 2. Expected to be completed in 2029, the aircraft has already been pre-ordered by Japan Airlines and Virgin Group and it’s anticipated that the airlines will be able to offer fares that are comparable to long-haul travel in business class today.