Virgin Galactic signs deal with Rolls-Royce to develop supersonic aircraft

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Virgin Galactic has announced it is working with engine-maker Rolls-Royce to develop an aircraft that can travel three times the speed of sound.

Sir Richard Branson’s company said on Monday that it has signed an agreement with Rolls-Royce to collaborate in designing and developing engine propulsion technology for the commercial plane, as it unveiled the first design of the coming aircraft.

The partnership with Rolls-Royce, which built engines for Concorde, the only civil-certified supersonic aircraft, comes after the Virgin Galactic programme cleared a mission concept review that included representatives from Nasa.

The first design of Virgin Galactic’s high-speed aircraft (Virgin Galactic/PA)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is also working with Virgin Galactic to outline a certification framework, said George Whitesides, chief space officer at Virgin Galactic.

He said: “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.

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“We have made great progress so far, and we look forward to opening up a new frontier in high-speed travel.”

The initial aircraft design includes a delta-wing plane that can carry between nine and 19 passengers at an altitude above 60,000 ft and reach Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound.

The aircraft is excepted to take off and land like any other passenger plane at existing airports.

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