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Virgin Galactic wants to whip passengers across the planet at Mach 3

Richard Branson's space tourism company is working with Rolls-Royce on supersonic air travel.

An illustration of Virgin Galactic's proposed supersonic plane.
Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic says it has teamed up with Rolls-Royce to develop a new aircraft that could launch passengers to their destinations at up to three times the speed of sound, or 2,300 miles per hour (3,700 kilometers per hour).

The company announced Monday that it has inked a deal with the famed automobile and engine manufacturer to collaborate on designing the propulsion system for a new generation of high-speed commercial planes. Virgin Galactic also says it is cooperating with the Federal Aviation Administration to outline a certification framework.

The company, founded by British tycoon Richard Branson, says it is working on a concept of a delta-wing aircraft with a targeted top speed of Mach 3 and the capacity to seat nine to 19 people. 

The announcement comes on the heels of Virgin Galactic unveiling the cabin design for its spacecraft that will take paying customers on a trip to orbit. 

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At top speed, the zippy new plane could reduce flight times between the US coasts to under 90 minutes, and trans-Pacific flights could take under 5 hours. 

Virgin says it has completed a mission concept review that included representatives from NASA. The review concluded that the design is feasible and can move forward to the next phase of designing specific system architectures and determining which materials to use. 

Virgin Galactic didn't immediately respond to a request for more details.