Virgin Galactic today unveiled its first SpaceShip III in its growing fleet, VSS Imagine.
Images copyright Virgin Galactic
The spaceship showcases Virgin Galactic’s innovation in design and astronaut experience. Imagine also demonstrates progress toward efficient design and production, as Virgin Galactic works to scale the business for the long-term. VSS Imagine will commence ground testing, with glide flights planned for this summer from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The breakthrough livery design, finished entirely with a mirror-like material, reflects the surrounding environment, constantly changing colour and appearance as it travels from earth to sky to space, whilst providing thermal protection.
Leveraging a modular design, the SpaceShip III class of vehicles are built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate. This third generation of spaceship will lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles.
As VSS Imagine begins ground testing, manufacturing will progress on VSS Inspire, the second SpaceShip III vehicle within the Virgin Galactic fleet. The introduction of the SpaceShip III class of vehicles is an important milestone in Virgin Galactic’s multi-year effort that targets flying 400 flights per year, per spaceport.
Future Astronauts are invited to be part of every step along the Virgin Galactic journey. One of Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronauts, Dee Chester, had a unique opportunity to play her part in the rollout of VSS Imagine, as her Astronaut Edition Range Rover towed the new spaceship out of the hangar for the first time.
VSS Imagine is unveiled ahead of VSS Unity’s next test flight, which is planned for May 2021.
Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, shared: “Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet. VSS Imagine and Inspire are stunning ships that will take our future astronauts on an incredible voyage to space, and their names reflect the aspirational nature of human spaceflight. Congratulations to our dedicated team who worked so brilliantly to achieve this milestone.”
Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin, commented: “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. 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."
Also announced today was Land Rover's three-year extension to its global partnership with Virgin Galactic, which extends its global partnership with Virgin Galactic to 2024. Land Rover will remain an integrated part of Virgin Galactic’s day-to-day operations as the company completes test flights with ‘SpaceShipTwo’ and begins a regular commercial service.
Land Rover vehicles are part of daily life for the Virgin Galactic team, with roles which include towing the space vehicles, carrying equipment and clearing runways before take-off. They played key roles during the company’s first two spaceflights which saw Virgin Galactic become the first private company to fly humans to space on a spaceship designed for commercial service. A fleet of Land Rovers also supported Virgin Galactic’s relocation from its manufacturing and test facilities in Mojave, California, to Spaceport America in New Mexico – the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.
Virgin Galactic has already signed-up around 600 Future Astronaut customers, who will be transported to their flights from Spaceport America, in Land Rover vehicles.