- Virgin Galactic said the next test flight of the VSS Unity will not happen until May
- The firm's CEO predicts commercial flights will now start in early 2022
- That is about a year past the initial forecast of the first quarter of 2021
- The company will unveil its next craft, the VirginSpaceShipThree, on March 30
- Virgin reported a net loss of $273 million in 2020, its first as a public companyVirgin Galactic is pushing back plans for space tourism until at least 2022.
In an earnings call this week, the company announced its next rocket-powered test of the Virgin SpaceShip Unity won't happen until May.
A February flight window is being allowed to close to allow for additional 'technical checks,' pushing the timeline for a commercial flight a year past its original early 2021 target. News of the delay caused Virgin Galactic's stock to plunge from $45.04 to $36.69 Thursday, mostly during after-hours trading.
Virgin also announced it would unveil the SpaceShipThree on March 30, before it begins four glide test flights and four powered flights this summer.
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Stock in Virgin Galactic fell from $45.04 to $36.69, mostly in after-hours trading following the release of the earnings reports, according to Parabolic Arc.
Virgin reported a net loss of $273 million last year, it's first as a publicly traded company, including a $74 million loss in the final quarter of 2020.On the call, CEO Michael Colglazier revealed the May flight will be a 'do-over' of the aborted December 2020 mission, which was canceled when the flight computer lost its connection to the motor.
It will carry two pilots and a load of NASA microgravity experiments.
This summer a pair of test missions will be conducted with employee 'passengers,' including one with Virgin CEO Richard Branson, and then a 'revenue-generating' mission to train Italian Air Force pilots some time in late summer or fall.
Unity and its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, will then spend four months getting maintenance and enhancements.
'At the conclusion of this period, we expect that VSS Unity will begin flying private astronauts and SpaceShipThree will be in a position to complete its flight testing, which we expect to be in early '22,' Colglazier said, according to Investor's Business Daily.
That's a year later than the initial forecast, which was for the first quarter of 2021.
In a tweet on Thursday, Virgin also announced the public will get its first look at SpaceShipThree on March 30, before the craft undergo a series of glide and rocket-powered test flights this summer.
Richard Branson's aerospace corporation is competing with Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to be the first to send tourists into space.
Passage on the VSS Unity cost $250,000, and there are already more than 600 reservations, reportedly including from Ashton Kutcher, Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber.
Travel time on the six-passenger craft is an estimated 90 minutes, including several minutes of weightlessness.
Virgin Galactic previously projected tourist flights would start in June 2020, but modifications, errors and the pandemic played havoc with that timeline.
During Unity's second suborbital flight test in February 2019, the craft's horizontal stabilizer suffered severe damage.
In December, a mission was aborted just an hour after takeoff when the flight computer lost its connection to the motor.
That flight, the first in two years, already faced delays due to the pandemic and poor weather conditions.