Virgin Galactic unveils VSS Imagine, its third suborbital spacecraft

Virgin Galactic has unveiled the VSS Imagine, its third suborbital spaceship that now joins two earlier models.

Making its public debut at Spaceport America, New Mexico, on March 30, 2011, VSS (Virgin Space Ship) Imagine highlights Virgin Galactic’s design innovation and astronaut experience, even as the company scales up operations, in a thrust to put space tourists and payloads into space on short haul flights.

Featuring a modular design the new spacecraft’s exterior features a mirror-like material, providing the craft with thermal protection as well as reflecting its immediate surroundings.

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VSS Imagine is the third spacecraft in the company’s fleet. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Ground testing and glide flights for VSS Imagine will begin this summer at Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Once VSS Imagine begins ground testing, manufacturing will progress on VSS Inspire, the second vehicle within the Virgin Galactic spacecraft fleet.

The introduction of the third spacecraft is an important milestone in Virgin Galactic’s multi-year effort that targets flying 400 flights per year, per spaceport.

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Ground testing and glide flights for VSS Imagine will begin this summer. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said: “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.”

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.

“Imagine is not just beautiful to look at, but represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spaceships.

A Range Rover Astronaut Edition tows the new spacecraft. Credit: Virgin Galactic
A Range Rover Astronaut Edition tows the new spacecraft. Credit: Virgin Galactic

“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,” Branson added.

Dee Chester, one of Virgin Galactic’s future astronauts, had a unique opportunity to play in the rollout of VSS Imagine at Mojave on March 30, as her Range Rover Astronaut Edition towed the shiny new spacecraft out of its hangar for the first time.