Virgin Galactic has unveiled Spaceship III VSS Imagine, the first in its class. 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.
Readers of this portal know we horizontally cover only verified additive manufacturing news and AM-industry-centric editorials. There are some industrial verticals, however, that are so interconnected with additive manufacturing that we occasionally cover some major news even if they are don’t specifically refer to AM. That’s the case, for example, of cellular agriculture or EVs. That’s also the case for some major space industry news and this is one of them.
We do know for a fact that Virgin companies are AM adopters. And when a space company looks at more efficient design and production methods they have to consider AM at some level, whether for prototypes and tools spare parts, or ducts, heat exchangers, brackets, and many other key components. Especially if the number of spaceships built so far can be counted with one hand and still have two fingers left. Even more so when it’s something as cool looking at Virgin Galactic’s VSS Imagine.
The new spaceship features a breakthrough livery design, finished entirely with a mirror-like material, that reflects the surrounding environment, constantly changing color 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 our inherent human fascination with space and the transformative experience of spaceflight.
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.”
Richard Branson commented: “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. 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.”
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.