The start of full commercial service to the fourth quarter of coming year, Virgin Galactic has been pushed back. Sending shares in billionaire Richard Brandson’s space tourism company down sharply.
In early trading on Friday, around 14% stock dropped after Virgin Galactic (SPCE) said that they made changes in the schedule, which would delay a crucial test flight and the start of commercial service, which had been expected to commence late in the third quarter of 2022.
To improve the performance of their rocket-powered plane VSS Unity and the mother ship from which it launches, Virgin Galactic said that they would conduct an “enhancement program”. After a lab test, they would also carry out physical inspections, “flagged a possible reduction in the strength margins of certain materials.”
“While this new lab test data has had no impact on the vehicles, our test flight protocols have clearly defined strength margins, and further analysis will assess whether any additional work is required to keep them at or above established levels,” the company said in a statement.
Unity 23 which is a test flight, is expected as early as this month will also be delayed most probably, the company said. Three paying crew members from the Italian Air Force and the country’s National Research Council, the company said.
“Our decisions are driven by detailed and thorough analysis, and we fly based on the most accurate and comprehensive data available,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement.
“The re-sequencing of our enhancement period and the Unity 23 flight underscores our safety-first procedures, provides the most efficient path to commercial service, and is the right approach for our business and our customers,” he added.
No delays are related to its recent probe into a potential defect in a supplier component, said Virgin Galactic. It said that issue has been resolved.