Sub-orbital spaceflights for space tourists with Virgin Galactic are planned to reach between Mach 3.5 and 4. This made me wonder: Is there any means of transportation available to tourists that goes faster than Mach 3.5?

I'm excluding one-shot, special (and outstandingly pricy) deals such as the tourist who went to the ISS or the art collector and a few artists that Musk wants to send around the moon.

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    Very hard to proof a negative, but I would not expect many, if any, possitive answers. (All that are available will be well published and you would know about them already.)
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 24, 2021 at 14:43
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    Am I allowed to measure relative to the galactic core? I'm doing Mach ~670 sitting at my desk.
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Jan 24, 2021 at 20:40
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    @ceejayoz That measure becomes problematic, since Mach number isn't really well-defined once you get outside of the atmosphere (because pressure waves don't appreciably propagate through outer space.)
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 24, 2021 at 21:04
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    And we are, of course, all moving at Mach 87 around the sun, in a system of planets moving at Mach 651 through space. Wheeee!!!
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 11:33
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    @Valorum We are NOT moving at Mach 87. "Mach" is not a measure of absolute speed as such, but of relative "flow velocity", or simplistically, is related to your speed relative to the air around you. Thus you are travelling at roughly Mach 0.
    – Doc
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 19:58

2 Answers 2


For faster than Mach 3.5, the answer is unfortunately no until Virgin Galactic or one of their would-be competitors makes it happen. Suborbital flights like those planned by Virgin Galactic seem most likely to be the first thing to top that number on a commercially-available, recurring basis.

The fastest non-rocket-powered manned vehicle so far was the SR-71 Blackbird. Officially, it got up to around Mach 3.3, though SR-71 pilot Brian Shul (same guy who famously tells the LA speed check story) claimed to have briefly exceeded Mach 3.5 while evading a missile over Libya in his book. Needless to say, rides in SR-71s were never commercially available and the vehicle is retired completely nowadays. If you were going to exceed Mach 3.5 in something other than a rocket, though, the SR-71 was pretty much the only way to do it.

Of course, the Concorde - as well as its Soviet counterpart, the Tu-144 - routinely carried passengers at supersonic speeds when they were operational, but neither came anywhere remotely close to Mach 3.5. Both were capable of flying a bit over Mach 2, but both have been retired for many years now and there are currently no supersonic aircraft in scheduled passenger service.

Currently, exceeding Mach 1 as a tourist is pretty much limited to operations that sell rides in old jet fighters. For example, in Novgorod, Russia, tourists can pay for supersonic flights in a MiG-29 for 'only' 12,500 EUR. Not exactly cheap, but much cheaper than the $250k+ USD price tags on the proposed suborbital flights that aren't even operational yet. However, this still won't get you anywhere close to Mach 3.5. According to their website, flights will be supersonic, but will be between Mach 1 and Mach 2. The maximum speed for the MiG-29 is around Mach 2.25, so you definitely won't be hitting Mach 3.5.

With no operational non-rocket-powered manned aircraft capable of exceeding Mach 3.5, nor any planned in the reasonably near future as far as I know, pretty much the only ways for a tourist to reach those speeds will be to spend a small fortune on one of the planned suborbital flights from someone like Virgin Galactic or to spend a large fortune flying to the International Space Station on something like a Soyuz, a SpaceX Crew Dragon, or a Boeing Starliner.

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    If you're mentioning historic machines, don't forget about the X-15 - up to Mach 6.7 and 100+ km altitude. No second seat though, bugger.
    – Zac67
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 18:34
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    @Zac67 True, but the X-15 was rocket powered. There are lots of examples of manned hypersonic rockets (including all manned orbital launches.)
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 19:20
  • Top speed of the SR-71 is difficult to quantify. The engines were capable of pushing it somewhat faster than Mach 4; the Mach 3.3 limit comes from the engine intakes only being rated for a temperature of 800 F, while compression heating at higher speeds would exceed this.
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 22:28
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    @Mark Yeah, all we really know for sure is what it did on the measured record flights. It's likely that the military flew it faster off-the-record (including the incident Maj. Shul mentioned.) Its actual top speed is still classified, as far as I know.
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 22:57

There are currently no means of transportation available to tourists that go beyond the speed of sound. ie, Mach 1. Thus there is fairly clearly no means that go faster than Mach 3.5.

Previously greater than Mach 1 travel was available via the Concorde which flew at just over Mach 2, however all Concorde aircraft were retired over 15 years ago.

  • 1
    No, see the MiG-29
    – Nayuki
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 18:22

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