African Pilot

Virgin Galactic Spaceship III

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VSS ‘Imagine’ will commence ground testing, with glide flights this summer as manufactur­ing ramps up on next SpaceShip III in the fleet.

Last month Virgin Galactic unveiled the company’s first Spaceship III in its growing fleet, VSS Imagine. The spaceship showcases Virgin Galactic’s innovation in design and astronaut experience. Imagine also 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 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 human fascinatio­n with space and the transforma­tive experience of spacefligh­t.

Leveraging a modular design, the SpaceShip III 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.

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 a unique 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. Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said: “Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet. 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. Congratula­tions to our dedicated team who worked so brilliantl­y to achieve this milestone.’’

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