Virgin Galactic has just received a US$20 million investment from Boeing to design and develop a commercial aircraft capable of travelling five times the speed of sound (Mach 5 or 6,174km/h) – and possibly through space. In other words, the Concorde on steroids.
For reference, the Concorde’s maximum speed was two times the speed of sound (2,179km/h). So when I say the Concorde on steroids, that’s not just some dumb joke or even hyperbole. I really mean the Concorde on steroids.
“This is the beginning of an important collaboration for the future of air and space travel, which are the natural next steps for our human spaceflight programme,” says Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic.
“Virgin Galactic and Boeing share a vision of opening access to the world and space, to more people in safe and environmentally responsible ways.”
The prospect of this, if indeed possible, would mean you could potentially fly from Sydney to Los Angeles (12,066 KM)… in less than two hours. That’s hypersonic speeds. And would just make the brutal slog from Kingsford Smith to LAX bearable. But only just.
Currently, it’s unclear whether this will take the form of a vehicle that enters and re-enters space or simply a supersonic jet that traverses in the upper atmosphere. Virgin Galactic’s main objective in the present day is to “… leverage Boeing’s aviation expertise…” for a new propulsion system, as well as materials for the next-gen transport systems that would not only make the journey safe – but economically viable.
Economic viability will play an immense role in the success of this endeavour. The Concorde, for instance, successfully zipped across the globe for twenty-seven years. That was until proved too expensive for everyday passengers in 2003, and famously made its exit from the market.
Fingers crossed, prayers resigned, and wishes offered for this one. And from everyone here at BH, we sincerely hope there’s more to come on this g̶r̶o̶u̶n̶d̶ sound-breaking development.