Virgin Galactic’s plans for future travel aren’t going to be limited to its new tourist spacecraft unveiled a few days ago. The aerospace manufacturer, in collaboration with Rolls-Royce, is preparing a new commercial supersonic worthy successor to the already legendary Boeing Concorde. Mach 3 is the provisional name that it has and, in case it was not obvious, its top speed expects to be Mach 3.
Difficult to achieve the “nostalgic beauty” that the Concorde evokes, but the Virgin Galactic supersonic aircraft will achieve the speed of the Concorde and will also exceed it if everything goes according to plan. While the Concorde peaked at Mach 2.04 (about 2,500 km / h), the Virgin Galactic supersonic hopes to hit Mach 3 (about 3,600 km / h).
According to the company, the aircraft will be designed to have between 9 and 12 passenger seats, depending on the configuration. Very far from the 128 passengers that the Concorde housed in its time. Such a drastic reduction is likely to have a direct effect on ticket prices, making flying the Virgin Galactic Mach 3 an honour for only a few who can afford it.
The feat of building a supersonic
We still have a long way to go to see this plane take flight. The prototype design just passed NASA’s Mission Concept Review reviews. Now it is Virgin Galactic and Rolls-Royce’s job to make it happen beyond computer designs. You also have to get it to fly to Mach 3 and, above all, that it does not explode in the feat. Other challenges ahead are how to deal with the noise generated by a supersonic, the right materials to withstand high stresses and temperatures, or something as simple as finding a way to make a plane that consumes so many resources is profitable.
The last-mentioned points are largely those that ended Concorde’s life as an operational aircraft. The huge noise that is generated in Mach 2 made it only reach this speed when it flew over oceans and seas far from populations. In addition, the high price of tickets did not help in continuing to make routes.
Virgin Galactic hopes that the technologies developed for this aircraft may be useful for other commercial aircraft in the future as well. In fact, the plane is part of an agreement they have with NASA to create air transport options that exceed the current speeds of commercial flights.
Another similar project is that of the Australian and UK space agency, which seeks to create a supersonic capable of travelling from London to Sydney in four hours.