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Boom Supersonic, a Colorado startup that is developing a new class of supersonic commercial aircraft, has raised $33 million in Series A funding. Backers include Y Combinator Continuity Fund, RRE Ventures, Palm Drive Ventures, Caffeinated Capital and 8VC. As part of the deal, YC president Sam Altman and former Sequoia Capital partner Greg McAdoo have joined Boom's board of directors.

Why now: It's been more than a decade since the Concorde was grounded, which was more about post 9/11 economics than supersonic technology. Boom is hoping to significantly decrease the cost-per-flight, in part because of two major development advancements since the time of Concorde:

  1. Even though Boom is already testing in real wind tunnels, it can do a lot of simulation via software.
  2. Companies like Boeing and Airbus have spent billions of dollars helping to develop and gain approvals for carbon fiber, which can help a plane go faster and use less gas.

Plans: Proceeds from this financing are expected to get Boom to its first supersonic flight in 2018 (a bit later than originally expected), with later plans to have passengers flying in the 2020's. Interim financing would be aided by a previously-announced $5 billion in pre-orders from companies like Virgin, with expectations that additional airline orders will be disclosed later this year.

Fun fact: The company's headquarters is on an old airfield, and its conference room was originally built as an airplane hanger.

Bottom line: There currently is a U.S. ban on supersonic flight over land, which is why Boom's initial plan is to run on existing supersonic corridors like LA-Tokyo and NYC-London. "The aircraft speed limit is one of the worst ideas in aviation policy history," Boom CEO Blake Scholl tells Axos. "Boom is working to overturn this, but not counting on that in our business model."

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

2 hours ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

2 hours ago - Health

Africa CDC: Vaccines likely won't be available until Q2 of 2021

Africa CDC director Dr. John Nkengasong. Photo: Mohammed Abdu Abdulbaqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Africa may have to wait until the second quarter of 2021 to roll out vaccines, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available,” Nkengasong said.

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