2020欧洲杯网站Virgin Galactic is to partner with Nasa to work on super high-speed air travel.
Sir Richard Branson's space company is set to help America's space agency develop civilian planes which could take passengers around the world at much higher speeds than modern airliners, by flying much higher in the atmosphere.
The news came as Virgin Atlantic said it would cut more than 3,000 jobs in the UK and cease operations at Gatwick Airport. Both companies are majority owned by Sir Richard's Virgin Group.
Tuesday's agreement paves the way for long-distance flights taking many fewer hours than they currently do, using Virgin's spacecraft which are designed to fly at the upper edge of the Earth's atmosphere.
Its SpaceShipTwo flies at an altitude of 68 miles, just beyond the boundary of space, and has a top speed of 2,485mph, compared to a Boeing 747's max speed of 615mph.
Virgin Galactic said it was "seeking to develop a vehicle for the next-generation of safe and efficient high speed air travel, with a focus on customer experience and environmental responsibility."
In its first-quarter earnings the company, which had aimed to send tourists into space as soon as this year, reported a larger-than-expected $60m (£48m) loss2020欧洲杯网站 and said it expected "minimal revenue for the remainder of the year".
Shares were volatile in after-hours trading as the company said its plans could be delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last year the spacecraft could make a journey from Los Angeles to Shanghai in less than two hours, and said such a possibility would be just "five to 10 years away".
"You would never think that you could go to Hong Kong for the weekend, or if you were in San Francisco, you could go to London for the weekend.
"But if you could get there in 90 minutes, it's no different than driving from one tip of San Francisco to the other in traffic," he said.
The SpaceShipTwo, unveiled by Mr Branson in 2009, takes off and lands on a runway like a traditional aeroplane. It made its first test flight in 2013, and first flew into space in 2018.
On the company's first-quarter earnings call chief executive George Whitesides said it had "first-mover advantage" in high-speed flights.
2020欧洲杯网站Companies including Elon Musk's SpaceX are working on similar technology.
"We are the only team designing, building and flying a crewed vehicle at Mach 3 at the edge of hypersonic flight," he said. "We remain focused on flying Richard Branson to space as soon as we possibly can."