Virgin Galactic rolls out shimmering third-generation spaceship
Virgin Galactic has wheeled out the next-generation version of the vehicle designed to carry human tourists into space, showing off a shimmering spaceship named the VSS Imagine. The craft marks another step forward for the company's evolving vehicle design, and is expected to take to the skies for the first time midway through the year.
The introduction of the VSS Imagine comes as Virgin Galactic's second-generation spaceship, the VSS Unity, remains parked at its base in New Mexico following a failed flight in mid-December. The resumption of test flights for the VSS Unity is now scheduled for May, with testing of the VSS Imagine to ramp up around the same time.
As the first Spaceship III in the fleet, the entirety of VSS Imagine is dressed in a novel mirror-like material that is designed to reflect the surroundings as the ship hurtles through the air and into space, while Virgin Galactic says it also serves a purpose in terms of thermal protection.
From the outside looking in, the VSS Imagine doesn't seem like a huge departure from the company's previous spaceship designs. It will also be carried into the air by a larger mothership and released at high altitude. But the company does say, however, that thanks to a new modular design, it will be easier to maintain and will be able to fly at a more frequent rate. The company hopes to eventually carry out 400 flights per year, per spaceport.
“Virgin Galactic spaceships are built specifically to deliver a new, transforming perspective to the thousands of people who will soon be able to experience the wonder of space for themselves," says Richard Branson, founder of Virgin. "As a SpaceShip III class of vehicle, Imagine is not just beautiful to look at, but represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spaceships. 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.’’
Virgin Galactic says it is now scaling up manufacturing of the second SpaceShip III in the fleet, the forthcoming VSS Inspire. It will now commence ground testing of the VSS Imagine, with glide tests to take place in the US summer.
You can check out the promo video below.
Source: Virgin Galactic