Boom! Virgin Galactic partners with supersonic jet startup on multi-plane deal

virgin to invest in supersonic jet company boom flying
For decades, airplane manufacturers have routinely attempted to develop a passenger plane capable of traveling multiple times the speed of sound. For equally as long, these same manufacturers have consistently failed. Now, a new startup aptly called Boom hopes to jump into the supersonic airplane game and buck the conventional trend of aiming higher than it can shoot. Specifically, the company hopes to take to the skies late next year with a prototype plane that travels at speeds of up to 2.2 times the speed of sound. You’ve heard this before, sure, but Boom has one incredibly advantageous ace in its hole: funding from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

According to a series of tweets sent out by the Colorado-based startup on March 23, a partnership between Boom and Virgin Group subsidiary Virgin Galactic will help the company “build and fly supersonic aircraft.” The deal, valued at roughly $2 billion, is reportedly a 10-plane option from the Richard Branson-owned company, which complements a 15-plane option an unnamed European company previously inked. All told, Boom’s optioned plane investments total roughly $5 billion; not bad for a new startup.

As mentioned above, getting into the supersonic jet space hasn’t yet proven to be a successful venture. Airbus’ Mach 2 Concorde is undoubtedly the most successful of those who’ve tried, having operated for around 27 years before folding. Though a crash in 2000 and rising maintenance costs may have ultimately forced Airbus to shutter service of the Concorde, the rumored $20,000 price tag per seat couldn’t have boded well for the craft’s continued operation. According to Boom founder Blake Scholl, affordability was among the company’s highest priorities.

An artist rendition of the Boom jet at Heathrow Airport
An artist rendition of the Boom jet at Heathrow Airport Boom

“We’re building a supersonic airplane that you can actually afford to fly. No [BS],” Scholl tells Business Insider. “If you look back to Concorde, it wasn’t really a technical failure, it was an economic failure.”

To Scholl’s credit, his early estimations of what someone might “actually afford to fly” are undoubtedly cheaper than what Concorde offered, but still rather spendy. For instance, to fly from JFK in New York City to Heathrow Airport in London, the trip would cost around $5,000 per ticket and take roughly half the time it typically would on a normal passenger plane. Additionally, San Francisco to Tokyo, an 11-hour flight normally, would take a little over four and a half hours and cost passengers $6,500.

At 2.2 times the speed of sound, the Boom would feasibly travel around 2.6 times faster than typical passenger planes in operation today. Moreover, Scholl says the plane will only seat 40 passengers at a time, a decision he feels will help keep the price low but demand high. Currently, Federal Aviation Administration laws prohibit supersonic travel over land meaning once Boom starts actually operating, it will have to stick with international routes that cross mostly water. If Boom proves successful, it’s likely Scholl challenges this law to allow a range of domestic flights.

As of now, Boom says it’s finishing the manufacturing of the first prototype and intends to get it into the air for trials in late 2017. In addition to Virgin Group, its investor list includes Sam Altman and Y Combinator, Eight Partners, and various unnamed angel investors. Additionally, astronaut Scott Kelly’s brother Mark Kelly is among the company’s Board of Advisors, while its leadership team includes ex-NASA, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing employees.

Emerging Tech

Blue Origin’s latest mission shows how space tourism might look

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin rocket company is aiming to launch a space tourism service, and on Wednesday, January 23, its latest successful test mission gave us a look at how one of those thrilling 10-minute rides might look.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Coinstar machines will let you swap cash for Bitcoin at your local grocery store

Coinstar, the company which owns the coin exchange machines found at grocery stores and elsewhere, will soon let you easily buy Bitcoin with your cash money. Here's how it will work.
Emerging Tech

Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea of building an internet drone

Facebook's efforts to provide internet connectivity from the skies using solar-powered drones suffered a blow last year when the company abandoned its "Aquila" drone project. But the company clearly hasn't given up on the idea.
Emerging Tech

World’s biggest fleet of campus delivery robots now transporting student meals

The world’s largest fleet of delivery robots on a university campus is coming to Fairfax County, Virginia’s George Mason University. Here's how the ordering and delivery process plays out.

Smart luggage does it all with wireless charger, built-in scale, GPS tracking

The SkyValet smart luggage, currently being funded on Kickstarter, offers solutions to many common travel struggles. With SkyValet, you no longer need separate portable chargers, a scale to weigh your bag, a lock, or a tracking device. It's…
Emerging Tech

The CRISPR baby saga continues as China confirms second gene-edited pregnancy

China’s official Xinhua news agency has confirmed that a second woman has become pregnant as part of a controversial experiment to create the world’s first genetically edited babies.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk offers to help dig CERN’s new particle collider tunnel

CERN plans to put the Large Hadron Collider to shame with its proposed much larger Future Circular Collider -- and Elon Musk wants to help. Because, you know, he's not busy enough.
Emerging Tech

Once again, a drone has reportedly caused a shutdown at a major airport

Reported drone sightings near New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport forced flights to be halted early Tuesday evening. One of the drones reportedly came within 30 feet of an aircraft.
Emerging Tech

Scientists find a way to create a renewable supply of cancer-fighting T cells

In a major advance for "off-the-shelf" cancer therapies, UCLA researchers have shown that it's possible to create T cells with important cancer-killing receptors from pluripotent stem cells.
Emerging Tech

Battery-free biosensor patch measures your health by drinking your sweat

Researchers from Northwestern University have developed a soft skin patch that’s able to wirelessly gather data about the body by testing sweat components. Here's why it could be so useful.
Emerging Tech

Amazon is building a fleet of autonomous robots to deliver packages to your door

Amazon has announced the launch of a new delivery robot service called Amazon Scout. A fleet of six of these robots are being deployed on a trial basis in a neighborhood in Snohomish County, Washington.