The carrier aircraft VMS Eve will take off on July 11, 2021 with the spacecraft VSS Unity from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic is postponing the start of its commercial space tourism service to the fourth quarter of 2022, with the company announcing a reorganization of its development and test flight schedule on Thursday.
The space tourism company will begin renovating and upgrading 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 vehicles that would require “further physical inspection”.
With work on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spacecraft and VMS Eve carrier aircraft beginning this month, the process will make mid-2022 the earliest time the Unity 23 can fly.
“The reorganization of our improvement period and flight Unity 23 underscores our security practices, provides the most efficient route to commercial services and is the right approach for our business and our customers,” said Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic in a statement.
Virgin Galactic shares fell as much as 11% in after-hours trading from their closing price of $ 24.06. At its closing price on Thursday, the stock is only up 1% for 2021, practically unchanged in the year.
Unity 23 will now take place after the improvement process that Virgin Galactic said was “designed to further increase margins for improved reliability, durability and reduced maintenance”.
Renovations were also scheduled to begin in September, but the Federal Aviation Administration had left Virgin Galactic on the ground for most of last month investigating a mishap that occurred during the flight that carried company founder Sir Richard Branson. The FAA gave Virgin Galactic permission to return to the flight upon completion of the investigation.
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