Virgin Galactic’s stock dropped by as much as 20% on Friday after the firm announced that its maiden commercial flight would be delayed.
The voyage was supposed to take place in the third quarter of 2022, but it will instead take place in the fourth due to repairs and modifications by the company. It was also announced that a scheduled second test flight for this year would not take place.
Virgin is competing with Amazon’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s Space X to be the first to fly tourists into space. The company said in a statement that a planned refurbishment programme to improve the durability of its ships will start a month later than expected.
It follows standard tests that indicated “potential reductions in the strength margins of some materials” employed on the VMS Eve and VSS Unity vessels.
Virgin said it needed to be looked at further, but downplayed any safety concerns. “While the new lab test data had no effect on the vehicles, our test flight processes have clearly defined strength margins, and further research will determine whether any extra work is required to keep them at or above established levels,” stated firm president Michael Colglazier.
The business, which was founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, announced that its next test flight, Unity 23, will now take place next summer. After that, commercial flights will begin. After a flight in July diverted from allotted airspace on its descent, the US Federal Aviation Administration lifted a no-fly order on Virgin Galactic last month.
The company was accused by the regulator of failing to provide relevant information about the flight in which Mr. Branson took part.
On Wednesday, Hollywood actor William Shatner became the world’s oldest astronaut when he launched into space aboard the Blue Origin suborbital capsule manufactured by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. In September, four amateur astronauts launched from Florida on a private trip aboard one of Space X’s Dragon spacecraft.