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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Branson Plans Hotel Overlooking Spaceport America

Richard Branson

The Independent has an interesting update on Richard Branson’s plans for his Virgin Hotels venture, which is set to launch in about two years:

San Diego and Washington DC are likely candidates, and Branson also announced that one of the the first sites will be in New Mexico, overlooking the spaceport which will send his Virgin Galactic tourist flights into space.

He also told conference attendees that each hotel will be different, saying that putting a Virgin stamp on the hotels wasn’t enough and that the goal was to be the “funnest” hotel for guests to go to.

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