Virgin Galactic delays beginning of commercial spaceflights to fourth quarter 2022

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  • Virgin Galactic is delaying the launch of its commercial space tourism service until the fourth quarter of 2022.
  • The space tourism company will begin refurbishing and revamping its spacecraft and carrier aircraft this month instead of its next space flight test.
  • Virgin Galactic’s augmentation process, which is expected to take eight months, could lead to a Unity 23 spaceflight flight in mid-2022 at the earliest.

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Virgin Galactic is delaying the launch of its commercial space tourism service to the fourth quarter of 2022, the company announced Thursday, restructuring its development and test flight program.

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The space tourism company will begin renovations and improvements to its spacecraft and carrier aircraft this month.

Virgin Galactic planned to begin an eight-month “enhancement” period after the next spaceflight, called Unity 23. But the company said a recent test “marked a potential reduction in the strength margin of some materials used to modify specific joints”. Vehicles that will require “further physical inspection”.

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With work on Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft VSS Unity and carrier aircraft VMS Eve beginning this month, the process prepares Unity 23 to fly by mid-2022 at the earliest.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said, “Our augmentation period and the re-sequencing of the Unity 23 flight underscore our safety-first processes, provide the most efficient route to commercial service, and improve the quality of life for our business and our customers.” The right approach.” a statement.

Shares of Virgin Galactic fell as much as 11% in after-market trading to close at $24.06. The stock is up just 1% for 2021 as of Thursday’s close, effectively unchanged for the year.

Unity 23 will now follow an enhancement process, which Virgin Galactic said is “designed to further increase margins that will enable improved reliability, durability and reduced maintenance requirements.”

The renewal period was also expected to begin in September, but the Federal Aviation Administration halted Virgin Galactic for much of last month to investigate a crash that occurred during a flight carrying the company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. The FAA allowed Virgin Galactic to return to flight after completing the investigation.

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