Our Aerospace Collection uses a precision turned metal process that is used the aerospace industry, an industry that has consistently evolved for the past century. Since the breakthrough of the Wright Brothers, we have created a jet that travels faster than the speed of sound, walked on the moon, and launched an International Space Station. There are three innovations in the last hundred that are particularly significant – the creation of the modern airplane by the Wright Brothers, Concorde, and, currently, Richard Branson’s attempt to make spaceflight commercial.
In 1799, George Cayley described the modern airplane with a ‘fixed wing and a horizontal and vertical tail’, but it was not until over a century later that the first powered flight took place. Cayley may be the ‘father of the aeroplane’, but the Wright Brothers are credited with the creation of the world’s first successful aeroplane. In 1903, the Wright Brothers made the first controlled, powered, and heavier than air human flight for 59 seconds in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Their invention of three-axis control made fixed-wing powered flight possible, and in 1909, the modern aeroplane was established.
From 1976 to 2003, the iconic needle-nosed Concorde flew 2.5 million passengers at a cruising speed of 1350mph, which is more than twice than the speed of sound. Concorde completed journeys in half the time that subsonic flights do, traveling faster than a rifle bullet. The record journey time from New York to London was 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds, set in 1996. The 20 Concorde jets completed just under 50,000 flights before it was withdrawn in 2003. A combination of rising maintenance costs due to ageing technology, the decline in air travel after 9/11 and Paris crash of 2000 led to the decision to permanently ground Concorde.
In 2004, Richard Branson announced his intention to open up the opportunity to travel in space to the general public. Throughout the whole of history only 549 people have been to space and, for a deposit of $250,000, Virgin Galactic offers you the chance to become a ‘future astronaut’. There are already seven hundred people who have signed up, but since 2004 there have only been four powered flights, which have barely reached above 70,000ft. In October 2014, there was a crash that killed the co-pilot, and since then, progress has been slow. Although the ‘future astronauts’ may be waiting a long time yet, Branson’s venture marks a new landmark in the aerospace industry – commercial space flight.