The NPR news article Virgin Galactic Space Plane Reaches New Heights In Test Flight links to the Virgin Galactic YouTube video VSS Unity | Third Rocket Powered Flight which is quite beautiful to watch!

I noticed both the sequence of x-craft images (where x = 'space' or 'air') on the main body, and enjoyed how the Sunlight and reflected Earth light plays off of the pattern in a puzzling way.

  1. What are these patterns, does each represent a historical craft?
  2. What is the finish used to make the patterns? While the body seems to transition smoothly from matte white to shiny, specular metal moving towards the tail, the patterns also seem somehow to be more than just gray paint. If so, how is this done?

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1 Answer 1


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  • Icarus
  • Wright Flyer
  • Spirit of St. Louis
  • Bell X-1
  • Boeing 747
  • Lunar Module
  • Spaceship 1
  • Spaceship 2

Source - looking at them but confirmed here. The Bell X-1 image isn't very good IMHO. The linked article says the image is "stenciled on" but I am not sure how definite that is.

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    $\begingroup$ The X-1 isn't quite right - fuselage should be longer, wing trailing edge forward swept, leading edge straight - but I don't know what else it would be in that sequence. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2018 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ I agree, looks like the wing is on backwards and the fuselage is too fat, but I did find a reference that confirms it. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2018 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ Stenciled? I think they mean decals/stickers. Those can be printed in metallic colors which would account for the fading effect on the mirror finish. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Jul 27, 2018 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ It's a direct quote. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2018 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ Great answer, thanks! I've just asked Shape of the Bell X-1 wing; representation on Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity's artwork correct? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 28, 2018 at 8:07

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