Virgin Galactic and Rolls-Royce signed a memorandum of understanding Monday to help develop a future high-speed commercial plane. While the latter is best known for its high-end luxury vehicles, the Rolls-Royce also operates a wide-ranging power systems division focused on clean and safe energy.
While Rolls-Royce handles future engine propulsion technology, Virgin Galactic will continue to design the, which the company said will make “high speed travel practical.” The first images of the aircraft imagine the vehicle with a delta-wing style and they give off some major jet-age vibes from the middle of last century.
Virgin Galactic aims to take the plane to speeds three times the speed of sound, or Mach 3, at 60,000 feet and plans to look at carrying up to 19 passengers at a time. At speeds up to 2,300 mph, the plane could cut coast-to-coast US trips to just 90 minutes.
This isn’t vaporware, either. The company continues to work with the FAA “to ensure our designs can make a practical impact from the start” and NASA to provide input on various requirements for high-speed air travel. Virgin Galactic also mentioned working with Boeing, though it didn’t name what exactly the US company’s working on with regards to this project.
Partner Rolls-Royce has a lengthy, and in fact, revealed a lovely special edition Wraith last year to honor the world’s first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight. It just so happens Rolls-Royce aircraft engines powered the plane to the monumentous occasion.
The company didn’t provide a timeframe for when we can perhaps expect its supersonic aircraft to become reality, but shorter air travel times are likely A-OK in everyone’s book.