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Virgin Galactic Pivots High-speed Aircraft Program in a Crowded Field

27 Oct 2020, 05:34 UTC
Virgin Galactic Pivots High-speed Aircraft Program in a Crowded Field
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Credit: Douglas Messier

Virgin Galactic’s record of delays and broken promises raises doubts about its ambitious supersonic aircraft project as company founder Richard Branson fights to save his struggling empire in the midst of a global pandemic.

by Douglas MessierManaging Editor

Richard Branson’s dream of a suborbital Virgin Galactic vehicle zipping passengers between distant cities at hypersonic speeds above Mach 5 (6,174 km/h, 3,836 mph) is dead. At least for now.

In August, the space tourism company he founded pivoted to a slower supersonic Mach 3 (3,704 km/h, 2,302 mph) business jet. Virgin Galactic unveiled a mission concept for an aircraft that would carry 9-19 passengers at a cruising altitude of 60,000 ft (18,288 m).

Virgin Galactic’s aircraft will “incorporate custom cabin layouts to address customer needs, including Business or First Class seating arrangements. The aircraft design also aims to help lead the way toward use of state-of-the-art sustainable aviation fuel. Baselining sustainable technologies and techniques into the aircraft design early on is expected to also act as a catalyst to adoption in the rest of the aviation community,” the company said.

Virgin Galactic Mach 3 jet. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

“Virgin Galactic is designing the aircraft for a range of ...

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