Virgin Galactic today unveiled the first Spaceship III in its growing fleet, VSS Imagine, which is set to begin ground testing this summer with glide flights at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The next test flight for the company’s existing second-generation platform, VSS Unity, is scheduled for May 2021.
“Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet,” said Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic. “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.”
As VSS Imagine begins ground testing, manufacturing is schedule to begin on VSS Inspire, the second SpaceShip III vehicle within the Virgin Galactic fleet. The company states the introduction of its Spaceship III class of vehicles is an important milestone in a multi-year effort that targets flying 400 flights per year, per spaceport.
Leveraging a modular design, Virgin explains its SpaceShip III class of vehicles are built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate.
“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,” said Virgin founder 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.”