Virgin Galactic postpones start of commercial space flights to Q4 2022, stock drops 13%

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The VSS Unity spacecraft lands on the runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico after the company’s fourth space flight test on July 11, 2021.

Galactic Virgo

Virgin Galactic is postponing the start of its commercial space tourism service to the fourth quarter of 2022, with the company announcing on Thursday a reorganization of its development and test flight program.

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

Virgin Galactic had planned to begin the eight-month “improvement” period after the next space flight, called Unity 23. But the company said recent testing “reported a possible reduction in strength margins for some of the materials used. to modify specific seals “in his vehicles which will require an” additional physical inspection “.

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With work on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spacecraft and VMS Eve carrier aircraft starting this month, the process makes mid-2022 the earliest Unity 23 can fly.

“The re-sequencing of our improvement period and Unity Flight 23 underscores our safety-oriented procedures, provides the most efficient route to commercial service and is the right approach for our business and our customers,” said Michael Colglazier. , CEO of Virgin Galactic. A declaration.

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Virgin Galactic shares have fallen as much as 11% after-hours from their close of $ 24.06. The stock was only up 1% for 2021 at Thursday’s close, virtually unchanged for the year.

Unity 23 will now take place after the improvement process, which Virgin Galactic says is “designed to further increase margins, which will improve reliability, durability and reduced maintenance requirements.”

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The renovation period was also due to begin in September, but the Federal Aviation Administration had grounded Virgin Galactic for most of the last month to investigate an incident during the flight carrying company founder Sir Richard Branson. The FAA has cleared Virgin Galactic to resume flight after completing the investigation.

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