Virgin Galactic, the British spaceflight company founded by Richard Branson, has just revealed the third generation of its spacecraft and it’s a stunner. The spacecraft—which is technically a spaceplane—is the first member of the company’s Spaceship III class and carries the moniker Imagine. And while it’s not quite as impressive—or explosive—as something like SpaceX’s Starship, it’s still a rocketed move in the right direction.
The Verge reported on Virgin Galactic’s recent unveiling, which comes about eight months after the company revealed the interior design for another one of its upcoming spacecraft. And, like the inside of that craft, the outside of this new cosmic bird is sleek AF. It has a “mirror-like material” wrapping its whole body that allows the craft to gleam like chrome. And the material reflects its surroundings, changing color as the craft ascends into space.
Like the company’s other suborbital spacecraft, Imagine, when operational, will launch from the underbelly of a plane flying at altitude. After the plane releases Imagine, the craft’s rocket engines will ignite, sending it into suborbital flight around Earth. Once its flight plan is complete, the craft will then glide back to Earth for a conventional runway landing.
Virgin Galactic says the introduction of the Spaceship III class of vehicles is an important milestone; one that marks another step in the company’s effort to eventually bring space tourism to (very wealthy) private citizens. SpaceShip III craft, along with those from other generations, will also fly simultaneously. Although none of the spaceplanes are flying tourists to space yet.
“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,” Richard Branson said in Virgin Galactic’s press release. “As a SpaceShip III class of vehicle, Imagine is not just beautiful to look at, but represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spaceships,” he added. And while we agree the ship’s a real beauty, its real test will come in early 2022. When the company plans to send its first customer—who’ll pay a cool $250,000—into space.