As many people around the world long for the return of international travel, the dream of going into space for ‘some’ people is now a step closer, as Virgin Galactic this week unveiled their new SpaceShip III, VSS Imagine.
The new spaceship showcases Virgin Galactic’s progress toward efficient design and production, as Virgin Galactic works to scale the business for the long-term.
Speaking of his vision for commercial space tourism Richard Branson in the video below highlights imminent plans to make it a reality.
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.
Along with providing thermal protection, this dynamic material is naturally appealing to the human eye, reflecting our inherent human fascination with space and the transformative experience of spaceflight.
Leveraging a modular design, the new 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.
VSS Imagine is unveiled ahead of VSS Unity’s next test flight, which is planned for May 2021.
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.’’
The potential for space flight tourism for some comes at a price few can afford. A seat on a flight costs circa $250,000 dollars, and they are available to be booked now. The flights onboard SpaceShip III will be sub-orbital reaching a height of 50 miles above the Earth.
A sub-orbital spaceflight is a spaceflight in which the spacecraft reaches outer space, but its trajectory intersects the atmosphere or surface of the gravitating body from which it was launched, so that it will not complete one orbital revolution or reach escape velocity.
As Virgin Galactic prepares for commercial passenger space travel, it does so alongside Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Others too, it may be that sooner than many expect space tourism will be a reality.
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