Richard Branson’s space tourism firm, Virgin Galactic recently unveiled its first SpaceShip III class spacecraft to join the company’s growing fleet. Dubbed the VSS Imagine, the spacecraft sports a more updated, sleek look from its predecessor SpaceShip Two.
The VSS Imagine bears an uncanny resemblance to terrestrial aircraft straight out of science fiction. The spacecraft is wrapped in a reflective coating, which the company explained to be “mirror-like” allowing the mechanical bird to reflect the earth, sky and stars back as it ascends to the apex of its suborbital flight path. Similar to those sci-fi spaceships, this design can quickly camouflage in new environments.
This shiny, chrome-plated ship is designed for quicker turnaround time for re-flights than its predecessor dubbed VSS Unity, the current centrepiece of the company’s effort to kickstart its space tourism venture in 2022. The vehicle also weighs slightly less than SpaceShip Two and the interior cabin has been reported to look different.
Imagine’s ground testing will begin in summer 2021 at Spaceport America's US$200mil facility in New Mexico, USA. The first glide test will see Imagine dropping from mid-air from its carrier plane to glide back to land.
At the same time, the spacecraft design company hopes to make significant progress on the manufacturing of VSS Inspire, the second SpaceShip III slated to join the fleet.
“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,” explained Richard Branson.
“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.”