Billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson has hailed Virgin Galactic’s “growing fleet of spaceships” after unveiling its third craft.
VSS Imagine, finished with an entirely mirror-like material, is part of the company’s third generation of spaceships – which the group says will “lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles”.
The craft is designed to reflect the surrounding environment, allowing it to change colour and appearance as it travels from Earth to space.
Virgin Galactic said the third generation of spaceships was “built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate”.
The company also said VSS Imagine demonstrates progress towards efficient design and production as it works to “scale the business for the long-term”.
As the new ship is ground-tested, Virgin Galactic will progress the manufacturing of another third generation vehicle, VSS Inspire.
Speaking about the unveiling of the new spaceship, Sir Richard said: “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.”
The company said it is targeting 400 flights per year, per spaceport, as part of a multi-year effort.
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.”