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Virgin Galactic SpaceShip III unveiling to deliver commercial space travel

Manufacturing ramp-up and ground testing for VSS Imagine spaceship within the Virgin Galactic fleet, with glide flights commenced for summer 2021.
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Virgin Galactic VSS Imagine.

Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. (Mojave, Calif., U.S.) unveiled on March 30 the company’s first Spaceship III in its growing fleet, VSS Imagine. The spaceship is said to showcase Virgin Galactic’s innovation in design and astronaut experience, as well as 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 livery design, finished entirely with a mirror-like material, reflects the surrounding environment, constantly changing color and appearance as it travels from earth to sky to space. Along with providing thermal protection, Virgin Galactic says the material reflects inherent human fascination with space and the transformative experience of spaceflight. Like the company’s VSS Unitythis aircraft most likely takes advantage of composites.

Leveraging a modular design, the SpaceShip III class of vehicles are built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate. According to Virgin Galactic this third generation of spaceship will lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles.

“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 Galactic. “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.’’

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 the 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.