Virgin Galactic unveiled its latest spacecraft Tuesday as it prepares to continue testing ships that it hopes will ferry tourists out of Earth’s atmosphere.
The VSS Imagine is the first of Virgin’s “SpaceShip III” models, a new class of vehicles that the shuttle builder says will be easier to maintain and fly.
With a design that looks straight out of “Star Trek,” the futuristic ship is covered with a mirror-like material that provides thermal protection and “reflects the surrounding environment, constantly changing color and appearance as it travels from earth to sky to space,” as Virgin Galactic put it in a news release.
The Richard Branson-backed company says it will start ground tests with the Imagine before taking it on planned glide flights this summer from Spaceport America, its giant facility in New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic is also working to build a second SpaceShip III model dubbed the VSS Inspire ahead of a planned test flight for the VSS Unity, its earlier ship, that’s slated to take off in May.
“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,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement
Virgin Galactic shares jumped after the announcement to trade up 2.6 percent at $29.97 as of 12:21 p.m.
The SpaceX rival rolled out the shiny new spaceship roughly three months after it had to abort the Unity’s December test flight because its rocket motor failed to ignite.
British billionaire Branson first trotted out the Unity in 2016, more than a year after his firm’s first spacecraft, the VSS Enterprise, went through a failed test flight that killed one person and injured another.