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Shares of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic fell up to 20% in pre-market trading on Friday after the aerospace company announced a change in schedule that would delay its commercial spaceflights until the fourth quarter of 2022.

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SPCEVirgin Galactic Holdings, Inc.20.01-4.05-16.83%

After receiving approval for takeoff late last month following the conclusion of a Federal Aviation Administration investigation into Virgin Galactic’s Unity 22 test flight in July, the company said its Unity 23 mission would target a flight window in mid-October .


However, the mission, which will take members of the Italian Air Force and focus on microgravity research and professional astronaut training experience, is now being pushed back, while the company’s previously announced plans for its VSS Unity spaceplane and VMS Eve mothership growth period. which is designed to improve vehicle performance and flight-rate capability, as well as new physical inspections after a laboratory test revealed “a potential reduction in the strength margin of certain materials used to modify specific joints.” marked.”

Virgin Galactic said, “While this new lab test data has no effect on the vehicles, our test flight protocol has clearly defined strength margins, and further analysis will assess whether they should be maintained at established levels or Whether or not any additional work is needed to keep above that.” a statement. “Given the time required for this effort, the company has determined the most efficient and expedient route to commercial service is to complete this work in parallel with the planned enhancement program now.”

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Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colaglier tells analysts Company’s second quarter earnings call in August That the enhancements, subject to testing and verification, could reduce Unity’s turnaround flight time to four to five weeks, down from the current rate of seven to eight weeks, and potentially allow VMS Eve up to 100 flights between major maintenance inspections. allows it to fly. Current interval of 10 flights. Colglazier noted at the time that the period of growth was likely to end in mid-2022.

After a period of growth, Virgin Galactic will operate its Unity 23, Unity 24 and Unity 25 missions, the latter of which represents the beginning of commercial service with private astronauts.

“Our decisions are driven by detailed and in-depth analysis, and we fly based on the most accurate and comprehensive data available. Virgin Galactic vehicles are designed with a significant margin of safety, providing layers of safety which is much greater than the load on our experience and is expected to be on the flights,” said Colglazier. Statement Friday. “Our growth period re-sequencing and Unity 23 flight underpins our safety-first processes, provides the most efficient route to commercial service, and is the right approach for our business and our customers.”

The schedule changes are unrelated to a recent investigation into a potential defect in a supplier component announced last month, which Virgin Galactic says has since been resolved.

“While the supplied components were not on VMS Eve or VSS Unity, in accordance with safety protocols, Virgin Galactic completed detailed inspections and scans, which found that all components met quality and safety standards and were ready for flight. ,” said the company.

Virgin Galactic is currently selling tickets for upcoming spaceflights for $450,000. The company plans to offer a range of product offerings for private astronaut flights, including a single-seat option, a multi-seat, doubles, family and friends package, and a full-flight purchase. Meanwhile, the company plans to charge $600,000 per seat on its future microgravity research and professional astronaut training flights.