Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic unveils first ‘next-gen spaceship’ [photos]

The VSS Imagine made its debut on 30 March 2021, and is the first of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic SpaceShip III class of vehicles.

This will be the second spacecraft the company will able to test – Unity vehicle had its first manned test flight in December. It was cut short due to electromagnetic interference, however.

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Imagine

The VSS Imagine is finished in a mirror-like material that will provide thermal protection and reflect its surroundings. That means its colour will shift constantly as the ship makes its journey from Earth to space.

virgin galactic spaceship
Image via Cover Media

Utilising a modular design, the SpaceShip III class of vehicles are built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate, says Virgin Galactic.

VSS Imagine will also commence ground testing this year. Glide flights planned for the summer from Spaceport America in New Mexico. In addition, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier told CNBC:

“For us to make the business start to scale, at the places that we’re aspiring towards, we need two things: We need many more ships than we have right now, but we also need the ships that we bring forward to be built in a way that they’re able to be maintained in a way that we can have much quicker [turnaround times between flights] than what we have with Unity”.

virgin galactic spaceship
Image via Virgin Galactic.

Branson: ‘Bring positive change to our planet’

Its introduction is also an important milestone in the company’s targets of flying 400 flights per year, per spaceport. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, explained:

“[Our] 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. [It] represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spaceships”.

Furthermore, Branson added, “all great achievements, creations and changes start with an idea”.

virgin galactic spaceship
Image via Virgin Galactic.

Therefore, Branson is hopeful that “all those who travel to space [will] return with fresh perspectives and new ideas that will bring positive change to our planet.”

At the same time, manufacturing of VSS Inspire, the second SpaceShip III vehicle within the Virgin Galactic fleet, will continue. Moreover, Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said:

“VSS Imagine and Inspire are stunning ships that will take our future astronauts on an incredible voyage to space; their names reflect the aspirational nature of human spaceflight.”

virgin galactic spaceship
Image via Virgin Galactic.

Via: Cover Media

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Presh JM Reporter

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