back to article 'Imagine' if Virgin Galactic actually did sub-orbital tourism: Firm unveils new chrome job on SpaceShip III

The ambitiously named Virgin Galactic has unveiled the latest vehicle in its fleet – the Spaceship III named VSS Imagine. The reveal comes ahead of ground testing for the suborbital jalopy which, should all go well, will lead to glide flights this summer from the company's base at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The " …

  1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Oooh, shiny!!!11!!!One!1


    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Oooh, shiny!!!11!!!One!1

      What’s the Carbon footprint per (unnecessary) space jolly for the disgustingly rich??

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oooh, shiny!!!11!!!One!1

        Quite. With the current climate issues this is utterly irresponsible. God knows how many tons of CO2 this glorified jolly will produce per passenger just from the flight itself, never mind all the testing and support operations etc plus the flithy rockets they're using that spew out contaminated black carbon and various unpleasent exhaust products into the upper atmosphere, far far worse than a jet of the same size. Yet Richard Branson is quite happy to spout his greenwash when it suits him commercially such as the allegedly sustainable fuels Virgin Atlantic flies a few jets on now and then.

        1. NeilPost Silver badge

          Re: Oooh, shiny!!!11!!!One!1

          Plus the private jet miles to and from the launch/recovery sites.

          For the disgustingly rich who already have a disproportionately excessive Carbon footprint and largely worry-free lives - flights, multiple mansions, yachts etc.

  2. John Doe 12

    John Lennon Moment

    VSS Imagine can take you on a trip to imagine-land because that's as far as many people will be going on this laughable project. After all these years how many of the people who paid up front have either died or got too old to handle the experience?

    John lennon - but everyone else just has to sit and watch from the ground.

    I know that a few Reg readers will crack the code in that last sentence ;-)

  3. Binraider Silver badge

    C4 made a daft TV show where they tried to "fake" a SpaceshipTwo like flight for some (gullible) patrons. I don't think I had the stomach to watch all of it, being turgid Big Brother like to watch... But the idea of it, well, maybe Virgin needs a TV studio or two.

    1. Essuu

      Space Cadets

      You're thinking of the laughable Space Cadets

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Space Cadets

        Laughable, except it wasn't remotely funny.

        Ohhh I refer to this not that on C4.

        1. Dabooka Silver badge

          Re: Space Cadets

          Oh lordy that takes me back.

          I am nor feeling compelled to dig some out and rewatch...

  4. Paul Herber Silver badge

    Ok then Mr Musk and Mr Branson, if you're both clever enough to create spaceships, you tell us what colour they should be!

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Do people want nasally insertable spaceships?

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge

        At least they are the right shape! Where's the Vicks Nasal Stick icon?

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge


          Ohhhhhh Mum!

          Icon - Shoved aforementioned stick too far up.

  5. aje21

    How time flies,,,

    ... unlike the passengers. That said, they're doing better than me in the "space tourism" industry - though, of course, I've not tried (so any criticism has to be tempered by the knowledge that I don't know how hard it is).

    1. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Re: How time flies,,,

      Pointy Haired Boss: anything you don't know about must be easy.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If this does go retail and the customer service is like Virgin Media.

    We'll get all the perks. Loyal customers will get to pay over the odds. Customer service will be handled in Wales "it says yurr on the com-poo-tah that's the best I can do, do you still want to can-sal, suuur?" and occasionally it might work as intended.

    You'll only get to fly first class if you're a new customer and if you're a long standing customer you get to fly in a steel box in the cargo bay...for twice the price.

    Yay Virgin. Cunts.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Imagine...

      The endless marketing calls...

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Imagine...

      Wow. The Virgin brand staff are out in force.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "400 flights per year per spaceport"

    Wow. I woder how much pollution that will add to our atmosphere.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: "400 flights per year per spaceport"

      Hopefully enough to block the Sun and stop global warming!

    2. Youngone

      Re: "400 flights per year per spaceport"

      I wouldn't worry about the pollution from anything Virgin Galactic because none of that is going to happen.

      I'm pretty sure its just some sort of complicated tax dodge at this point, because if it really was an orbital tourism venture they would have put someone into orbit by now.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: "400 flights per year per spaceport"

        Hey need to pay several hundred million pounds a year to the brand IP company, so then this part of the corporate brand can ask for government hand outs.

  8. HildyJ Silver badge

    Pigs in Space

    I am intrigued by Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne and applaud it's first successful flight in January and the WhiteKnightTwo seems like a good concept.

    But they got almost no coverage while their SpaceShip III is all over the news.

    Why people are fascinated by space tourism is beyond me. It's not as if anyone reading the articles will ever be able to afford it. It's just for the 1% with more money than sense.

    1. Def Silver badge

      Re: Pigs in Space

      Right now it's for the 1%. (Mostly. $250k isn't *that* much if you really wanted to go.)

      Given the rate at which companies that aren't Virgin Galactic are progressing these days though, in 20 years from now the tickets will be a fraction of the price they are today.

    2. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Pigs in Space

      "Why people are fascinated by space tourism is beyond me. It's not as if anyone reading the articles will ever be able to afford it."

      Which explains why you read the article so avidly you decided to comment on it. Riiight.

      Seriously, most folks are fascinated by space ventures of any kind, manned or unmanned, yet less than 1% will ever get to participate directly, let alone be given a ride.

    3. Paul Smith

      Re: Pigs in Space

      Out of a population of over 7 billion, 562 have reached space. 556 have orbited the earth, 24 have left Earth orbit and only 12 have set foot anywhere else.

      And you wonder why people are fascinated by space.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Pigs in Space

        even fewer than that have set foot on the bottom of the oceans.....

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Pigs in Space

        Aren't these numbers evidence that we are not, as a species, particularly fascinated by space? Because if we were, a lot more of us would have gone, or be trying to go, there.

  9. RegGuy1 Silver badge


    Well I for one think this is great. I know, I know, 18 years and we are still not there yet, but there is not at all easy to get to. And if it succeeds think of the size of the suborbital market. I'm impressed at Branson. 18 years. His skill set is developing businesses, not running them, as he says he gets bored when they become mundane. So the 18 years must have been hard for him.

    Amazing. At least I'm going to stand on the parapets and say well done. We need people like him -- after all it's his money so I have no right to moan.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Stunning!

      18 years after the Wright Flyer's first flight, aircraft were flying ten thousand times as far over open water.

      In the early 1960s, (about 20-25 years after the first rocket and jet aircraft flew) aircraft-launched piloted rockets launched from jets were reaching 100 km in altitude.

      Virgin really haven't gotten very far very fast.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Stunning!

        I'm not terribly impressed, V-Gs first sub-orbital passengers have been ‘next year’ since 2007.

        The far more complicated shuttle took 15 years from design study to achieving LEO as the first reusable vehicle, the main fuel tank could also have been made reusable but it wasn’t worth the effort.

        Space-X went from zero to reusable in 15 years and humans in LEO in 18. I wouldn’t be surprised if a 100Km altitude suborbital hop in one of their dragon capsules already costs less than V-G are touting.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Stunning!

          I'm not terribly impressed, V-Gs first sub-orbital passengers have been ‘next year’ since 2007.

          I reckon they're powered by nuclear fusion and controlled by Linux on the desktop.

  10. rcxb Silver badge

    Another idea

    Maybe they should drive it around a city or two, selling music CDs out of the boot...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Another idea

      Already been done, and that one is street legal :-)

  11. Spanners Silver badge

    Bucket List

    This definitely sounds like a bucket list item. The trouble is, will we all be too wrinkly/fragile by the time it stops costing silly money?

    If no to this, how much is a ride in a vomit comet?

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Bucket List

      Last time I looked, Vomit Comet was about $5k for the flight alone, excluding travel and hotels.

      By the way have you seen the OK Go video they shot on the VC?

      1. Spanners Silver badge

        Re: Bucket List

        Thank you for reminding me of this!

  12. Winkypop Silver badge

    One way tickets?

    How about you send up my ashes, and then throw them out?

    Is that cheaper?

  13. tel2016

    Could this be used for point-to-point travel?

    If so, then its use could be extended beyond space tourism for rich folk.

    It could also be used by rich folk that want to get somewhere else fast.

    1. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Could this be used for point-to-point travel?

      The flight profiles of Virgin Galactic to date have all been about the up-down. It doesn't spend especially long at altitude; the portion of the flight with the opportunity to travel sideways with little resistance is very short; and adding horizontal velocity would also mean rethinking the re-entry profile and thermal design in all likelyhood. I doubt there's any advantage over a private jet for things that happen to be in range, and a whole lot of disadvantage.

      The suborbital hops of Mercury-Redstone didn't cover much distance either.

  14. John Jennings Silver badge

    His model isnt ultimately space tourism

    Its launching microsats into LEO.

    His ultimate model is likely more efficient than Elons method. White Knight II is his ticket - not the bauble he is launching currently - thats for show. He won a $45M contract from NASA last December.

    It will become interesting

    There isnt the market for 400 flights per year (per spaceport) for just jollies.

    They have successfully launched 40 cubesats from the 747 - so have proved the technology. That research will give them an edge in miltech contracts - the real commercial target. The 747 cant launch as high as White knight II - but can carry more gross weight. I wouldnt be surprised if they have looked at Paul Allens plane for the same purpose. Its a lot easier, if a bit unimpressive to go hypersonic at 50,000 feet than from ground level...

    1. Paul Smith

      Re: His model isnt ultimately space tourism

      Microsats into LEO is one of his *other* business model. It is independent of the Space tourism venture.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: His model isnt ultimately space tourism

        There are lots of issues launching horizontally from planes, Pegasus has been failing at them for 25+years. Admittedly it's a lot easier for microsats but reusable rockets may have already 'won'.

        >He won a $45M contract from NASA last December.

        That's, "you don't even have a senator on the right committee" money for Nasa

  15. Oh Matron!

    If you've not read...

    "how to build a spaceship" then I implore you to do so. It's a fascinating look at how Musk, Branson, Allen and Rutan got us to where private spaceflight is a reality

  16. TeeCee Gold badge

    Nearly there.

    All it needs now is a load of rivets down the outside and a new engine that produces smoke and sparks, rather than a plume of fire.

    Oh and some of those ray guns that make a "whoop whoop" noise and produce rings of glowing light.

  17. TRT Silver badge

    Viewed from above it does have something of the Transformers logo about it.

  18. The Onymous Coward

    Given the laughable customer service I've experienced from Virgin Media, who had to pay me compensation after I took them to independent arbitration when they lost the cancellation letter of which they'd previously acknowledged receipt, and Virgin Experience Days, who seem to go out of their way to make it difficult to actually spend one of their vouchers, I don't think I'd throw any money in VG's direction even if I had a spare hundred grand knocking around.

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