That partnership is big deal. Not only is the British engineering and automotive company among the world's largest producer of aircraft engines, but it developed the turbojet that powered the Concorde, which still stands as the only civil-certified commercial aircraft to break the sound barrier.
CNBC notes that a British Airways Concorde set the transatlantic flight record in 1996 when it traveled from New York City to London in 2 hours, 52 minutes, 59 seconds at an average speed of 1,250 mph, or about Mach 2.
But the delta-wing aircraft in the works under Virgin Galactic's Mission Concept Review program would be able to reach speeds of about 2,300 mph and complete the same flight in well under 2 hours.
Other targeted specs include a capacity to carry between 9 and 19 people at above 60,000 feet. Numerous cabin layouts would be configurable in Business or First Class seating arrangements, and the jet would utilize sustainable aviation fuel.
“We are excited to partner with Virgin Galactic and TSC to explore the future of sustainable high speed flight,” said Rolls-Royce North America CEO Tom Bell.
“Rolls-Royce brings a unique history in high speed propulsion, going back to the Concorde, and offers world-class technical capabilities to develop and field the advanced propulsion systems needed to power commercially available high-Mach travel."
Virgin Galactic is also working to break barriers beyond the Earth's atmosphere. Billionaire founder Richard Branson is set to take his first space flight in 2021 before sending Virgin Galactic customers soaring through the stratosphere aboard VSS Unity, also known as SpaceshipTwo.