Virgin Galactic unveiled its newest spaceship on Tuesday, the latest generation of its growing fleet.
The space tourism firm showcased the company’s innovation in design and astronaut experience through VSS Imagine, the first of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip III.
Company Founder Richard Branson said Virgin Galactic’s spaceships are built specifically to deliver a new, transforming perspective for future astronaughts.
“As a SpaceShip III class of vehicle, Imagine is not just beautiful to look at, but represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spaceships,” he said. “All great achievements, creations and changes start with an idea. Our hope is for all those who travel to space to return with fresh perspectives and new ideas that will bring positive change to our planet.”
This third generation spaceship will lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of futre vehicles for Virgin Galactic.
The spaceship features a breakthrough design finished entirly with a mirror-like material that reflects the surrounding environment.
The material not only is appealing to the human eye but also provides theremal protection.
The modular design of the SpaceShip III class of vehicles are built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate.
Ground testing for the new spaceship with glide flights are planned for this summer from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
As VSS Imagine is scheduled to begin testing, manufacturing for the company’s second SpaceShip III, VSS Inspire, will start.
Michael Colglazier, Virgin Galactic’s chief executive officer, congratulated the team who worked on the project.
“Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet,” he said. “VSS Imagine and Inspire are stunning ships that will take our future astronauts on an incredible voyage to space, and their names reflect theb aspirational nature of human spaceflight.”
The introduction of the Spaceship III class of vehicles is an important milestone in Virgin Galactic’s multi-year effort targeting 400 flights per year, per spaceport.
The company’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity, will have its next test flight in May.