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

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.

Updated on 10/27/20 at 12:39 p.m. PDT to include spending comparison of Virgin Orbit to Rocket Lab.

by Douglas Messier
Managing 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).

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Supersonic & Hypersonic Civilian Transport Projects in Development

Overture supersonic passenger jet (Credit: Boom Supersonic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boom Supersonic’s recent rollout of its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator aircraft marked a milestone in an accelerating race to revive an era of civilian supersonic travel that ended when the Concorde jetliner was retired in 2003.

XB-1, aka Baby Boom, is set to begin flight tests next year from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The Mach 2.2 (2,717 km/h, 1,688 mph) vehicle is the precursor to Boom’s 55-seat Overture airliner, which is scheduled to begin carrying passengers in 2029.

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Space Florida Invests in New Home of Aerion Supersonic

The AS2 is designed to fly at speeds up to Mach 1.4 or approximately 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) per hour. (Credit: Aerion Supersonic)
  • Space Florida makes a significant investment in Aerion Supersonics’ new state-of-the-art design and production campus, Aerion Park, in Melbourne, FL
  • Aerion breaks ground on Aerion Park later this year, creating at least 675 advanced technology and manufacturing jobs by 2026
  • Aerion adds to the growing technology corridor of cutting-edge aerospace companies in Florida

Exploration Park & Melbourne, FL (August 20, 2020) – Space Florida is pleased to announce it has finalized a multi-million-dollar investment in Aerion Supersonic to accelerate the hiring of employees and development of the company’s new state-of-the-art campus – Aerion Park – in Melbourne, Florida.

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Boeing Partners with Aerion to Accelerate Supersonic Travel

The AS2 is designed to fly at speeds up to Mach 1.4 or approximately 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) per hour. (Credit: Aerion Corp.)

CHICAGO, Feb. 5, 2019 (Boeing PR) — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced a partnership with Aerion, a Reno, Nev.-based company pioneering next-generation supersonic aircraft. As part of the agreement, Boeing made a significant investment in Aerion to accelerate technology development and aircraft design, and unlock supersonic air travel for new markets. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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