After unveiling Virgin Galactic’s third spacecraft, SIR Richard Branson is installing rocket boosters as part of his cosmic plans.
The VSS Imagine sports a mirror-like coating that reflects the surrounding environment, allowing it to change color and appearance when traveling from Earth to space.9Virgin Galactic’s third spacecraft was unveiled on TuesdayCredit: Reuters
It is faster and easier to maintain than the previous two spaceships of the New Mexico-based firm.
Speaking after the craft’s unveiling on Tuesday, 70-year-old billionaire Sir Richard praised Virgin Galactic’s “growing fleet of spacecraft”.
VSS Imagine is part of the company’s third-generation rocket aircraft – which the group says will “lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles”.
Virgin Galactic said the aircraft was “built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance reach and flight rate”.
As the new ship has been ground tested, Virgin Galactic will progress in the construction of another third generation vehicle, the VSS Inspire.
Sir Richard said: “The Virgin Galactic Spaceship is specifically designed to give a new, transformative perspective to thousands of people who will soon be able to experience the wonder of space for themselves.
“As a spaceship III class vehicle, the Imagine is not only beautiful to look at, but represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spacecraft.
“All great achievements, creations and changes begin with an idea.
“Our hope is for all those who travel to space and return with new perspectives and new ideas that will bring positive changes to our planet.”
The company said it is targeting 400 flights per year per spaceport as part of a multi-year effort.
Michael Kolleglier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said: “Today we unveiled our Spaceship III 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 journey to space, and their names reflect the aspirational nature of human spacecraft.
“Congratulations to our dedicated team who have done a fantastic job to achieve this milestone.”
Last year, Virgin Galactic moved its headquarters to New Mexico, where it is undertaking an extensive testing program.
So far, the company has sent five people into space on two separate test flights, but has not yet started commercial operations.
Company officials said the spaceport of the ship designed and built in California is likely to heat up before the glide flight test in the US.
How Virgin Galactic Will Take Tourists Into Space
Unlike most space flight companies, Virgin Galactic will not use rockets to launch tourists into space.
Instead, its spaceship to plane would go towards a space tied to a giant carrier aircraft called the White Knight Two.
About 50 miles above Earth’s surface – the outer space limit defined by NASA – SpaceShipTwo will be separated from its motherhood.
Within seconds, the space plane will engage its rocket motor and fly into sub-orbital space at a near-vertical angle, three and a half times the speed of sound.
After the rocket motor runs for about a minute, the pilots will safely close it, giving riders a few minutes of weightlessness.
The pilots would then spin the SpaceShipTwo and return it to Earth, landing it on the runway like a commercial airliner.
This will coincide with the final round of testing for the current generation of the spacecraft.
According to Virgin Galactic, the flight will be the one that will take Sir Richard to the edge of space later this year.
Unlike most space flight companies, Virgin Galactic does not use rockets to reach the edge of space.
Instead, its spaceship to plane takes off from the ground tied to a huge carrier aircraft called the White Knight Two.
About 50 miles above the Earth’s surface – the outer space limit defined by NASA – SpaceShipTwo is separated from its motherhood.
Within seconds, the space plane engages its rocket motor and flies into sub-orbital space at a near-vertical angle, hitting three-and-a-half times the speed of sound.
After the rocket motor ran for about a minute, the pilots shut it down, causing potential riders to suffer a few minutes of weightlessness.
The pilots then spin off SpaceShip Two and return to Earth, landing it on the runway like a commercial airliner.
With a hefty price of $ 250,000 (£ 185,000) a ticket, the 90-minute flight is aimed at rich celebrities and adventure seekers.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, has said that “eventually” he would like to see prices fall by as much as $ 40,000 (£ 30,700) over the next decade.
Virgin Galactic is against fierce competition from firms such as Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the private space sector.
SpaceX is due to fly space tourists around the moon in 2023, while the first crew flight to Blue Origin is scheduled for later this year.
Virgin Galactic unveiled the cabin of the Spaceship to Rocket plane that will take tourists to space
In other news, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Mezawa has launched a search for eight people to join a private journey around the moon with SpaceX.
The world’s first reality show filmed in space will follow a contestant on a 10-day trip to the ISS in 2023.
And, a NASA has unveiled a new lunar lander that could bring astronauts back to the moon in 2024.