Clad entirely in a highly-reflective, mirror-like material, the company says that its design is not only for pleasing the eye but also has a practical function: thermal protection. Unlike its SpaceShip II predecessor, the new model utilizes a modular design which Virgin Galactic hopes will make future upgrades more accessible and less costly. It’ll also lay the foundation for future vehicles to come in terms of both design and manufacturing. The VSS Imagine will also play a key role in growing the company’s expanding fleet in order to meet its goal of 400 flights per year per spaceport in the near future.
“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 Virgin found Richard Branson. “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.”
While there’s no concrete date as to when the VSS Imagine will begin offering commercial flights, Virgin Galactic says ground testing will commence soon, with glide tests following in summer.
Elsewhere in related news, SpaceX has lost its fourth consecutive SN11 Starship prototype.