Virgin Galactic’s Shiny New VSS Imagine Raises a Lot of Questions

VSS Imagine 8 photos
Photo: Virgin Galactic
VSS ImagineVSS ImagineVSS ImagineVSS ImagineVSS ImagineVSS ImagineVSS Imagine
Virgin Galactic did not even finish fully testing the VSS Unity space vehicle, and a new generation of such machines has allegedly been ushered in. Called Virgin Spaceship III, the new family is said to comprise several members, starting with the aptly-named VSS Imagine shown on Tuesday by Richard Branson’s company.
According to the available info, the Spaceship 3 fleet will comprise vehicles designed as an evolution of the current SpaceShipTwo line, of which the VSS Unity (the single Virgin spacecraft currently in existence) is part of. They should provide easier maintenance, but more importantly, an increased flight rate, as the company plans to start turning a profit soon.

To date, despite years of research and testing, Virgin is still an unknown time away from actually taking tourists into space. The company is still hard at work trying to ensure things work as planned, and given how the last time the Unity launched, they didn’t, there’s probably a lot of work ahead still.

Even so, Virgin now says that once it gets going, it should have about 400 flights per year per spaceport (although, so far, only the one in New Mexico is up and running). Multiply that by six paying customers per ship, and an estimated $250,000 paid by each of them, and you get a sense of where this is going.

The ship shown this week by Virgin does raise a lot of eyebrows, though, especially given how April 1 is fast approaching.

First, it's the fact that this ship seems to have come out of the blue, with only a tweet from Richard Branson on Monday setting the scene for its arrival and not a lot of other details about it to go on.

Then, the name and spelling, which is not VSS Imagine, but rather VSS 1mag1ne. Finally, there's the fact that the ship shown as being towed by a Land Rover seems to lack the same markings as the one shown in the photos released by Virgin (check attached gallery for more).

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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