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Virgin Galactic and Rolls-Royce teaming up to launch exotic new Mach 3 superjet

By Jeff Spry
VG 1

Until 22nd century transporters straight out of Star Trek become a real thing, this speedy, elegant-looking new aircraft being developed by Virgin Galactic and Rolls-Royce might just be your ticket to ultra-accelerated transportation.

On Monday, The Spaceship Company (TSC), Virgin Galactic's aerospace-system manufacturing division that constructs the private firm's SpaceShipTwo space planes, announced details on a serious plan to design and build a next-generation, high-speed commercial airplane that can push the envelope to a top speed of Mach 3. That's three times the speed of sound, baby, and could revitalize the ailing airline industry when they're rolled out and put into operation down the road sometime in the near future.

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TSC revealed today that their project team has completed a mission concept review and then took the wrapper off several design concept images for this beautiful long-necked supersonic aircraft. They've also disclosed that TSC has signed an official memorandum of understanding with the elite British carmaker Rolls-Royce to partner up in conceptual design and development for the swift plane. 

Rolls-Royce has been a maker of reliable jet engines for decades and their turbojet powerplants have been installed in most modern Airbus commercial airliners, Boeing's flagship 777 and 787 Dreamliners, and also provided the propulsion for the legendary supersonic Concorde, which retired back in 2003.

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In the wake of the mission concept review and blue skies ahead, TSC will now concentrate on the next design phase of this multi-year endeavor.

"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," Virgin Galactic Chief Space Officer George Whitesides said in a press statement. "We have made great progress so far, and we look forward to opening up a new frontier in high-speed travel."

Plans call for a Mach 3 delta-winged aircraft with room to seat 9 and 19 passengers at a time, cruising at an altitude above 60,000 feet. Virgin Galactic's spinoff firm intends on providing numerous seating options and configurations, including business or first class. Their new supersonic vehicle would lift off and land similar to any normal passenger aircraft, and will be easily accommodated by existing airport facilities and international airspace located around the globe.

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“We are excited to partner with Virgin Galactic and TSC to explore the future of sustainable high speed flight,” added Rolls-Royce North America Chairman & CEO Tom Bell. “Rolls-Royce brings a unique history in high speed propulsion, going back to the Concorde, and offers world-class technical capabilities to develop and field the advanced propulsion systems needed to power commercially available high-Mach travel.”