Virgin Galactic Unveils First Of Its Next-Generation Spaceships
Virgin Galactic has unveiled its newest addition to its fleet of next-generation spaceships.
The VSS Imagine made its debut today, March 30, and is the first of the Virgin Galactic Spaceship III class of vehicles.
This will be the second space craft the company will able to test; Virgin Galactic’s Unity vehicle had its first manned test flight in December. It was cut short due to electromagnetic interference, however.
Reportedly the biggest differences between its Spaceship II and Spaceship III classes is the manufacturing turnaround time and that the newer vehicles don’t require as much maintenance between each flight.
The space tourism company had a third ship named the VSS Enterprise but this was destroyed in 2014 in a test flight accident.
Discussing the newest addition to the fleet, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said to 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 and 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.
In the wake of the Unity vehicle’s trip being cut short a few months ago, Colglazier said that they’ve learnt from the mistakes they made and that the VSS Imagine ‘has been designed in a way that’s taken the learnings we’ve had from all the flight testing on Unity.’
He continued, ‘That allows us to access things in the right way — we know what things need to be tackled on a routine basis, so that we can give people easy access.’
The ship boasts a mirror-like finish that ‘reflects the surrounding environment, constantly changing colour and appearance as it travels from earth to sky to space, Sky News reports. They didn’t do this just for aesthetic reasons though, apparently the material provides thermal protection as well.
Touching upon VSS Imagine’s improvements compared to Virgin Galactic’s older vehicles, Colglazier explained that its production was broken down into different sections. ‘The fuselage, cabin, the wing body, the flat plane form of the wings, and then the tail booms – all were built separately,’ he said.
Ground testing of the new vehicle is set to begin immediately, with glide flights planned to take place in the summer. Meanwhile, VSS Unity’s next flight is set for May.
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