Virgin Galactic debuted the newest suborbital spaceplane on March 30, a spacecraft that resembles the company’s current SpaceShipTwo but includes major structural changes. VSS Imagine, the first vehicle in the firm’s “Spaceship III” series of vehicles, was revealed. The spacecraft is equipped for ground testing at Virgin Galactic’s facility in Mojave, California, with a test flight project at Spaceport America in New Mexico set to launch this summer.
With the exception of a new livery, the vehicle resembles the firm’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity. The spacecraft is coated in a silvery film which offers thermal security while still being “naturally pleasing to the human eye, representing our intrinsic human obsession with space as well as the exciting experience of spaceflight,” according to the company.
In an interview, the president of Virgin Galactic’s space missions and safety, Mike Moses, said, “With the outside eye, it really doesn’t look any unique.” “This is the third version of the concept. This one was built in a totally different manner.” The vehicle’s construction, according to Moses, is the most important alteration. Engineers tweaked the construction of SpaceShipTwo to make it “more powerful and graceful,” which lowers the vehicle’s weight while still finding it easy to test and manage.
Spaceship III was also developed using a more modular design by Virgin Galactic. The business designed SpaceShipTwo in a single crib, beginning with the wings and incorporating the cabin as well as other components later. He said, “It rendered it serial and severely reduced the amount of people who might operate on the ship at any given moment.”
Different vehicle parts may be constructed in parallel as well as then mounted into the final vehicle with the Spaceship III. “From that perspective, you get a lot quicker and more powerful build,” he stated. He further added that this method increases maintenance.
These structural changes decreased the vehicle’s weight, enabling it to hold more freight. VSS Unity can only hold four people due to increased weight, particularly additional instrumentation required for its flight evaluation program. SpaceShipTwo was planned to carry six people together with its two pilots. VSS Unity will only carry four people due to the extra weight and additional instrumentation required for its flight test software. Spaceship III, according to Moses, would be able to accommodate six passengers.
The Spaceship III flight evaluation program will start with the captive carry flight from Mojave to the Spaceport America on WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, or the “mothership.” “The mothership would provide us with a flying wind tunnel, allowing us to evaluate all of the flight control programs as well as simple aerodynamics,” he stated. “We should go up high as well as cold soak and see how structures respond to variations in temperature.”