Virgin Galactic to Delay Commercial Space Travel Service, Won’t Conduct Further Test Flights This Year

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Virgin Galactic said Thursday it is delaying its commercial space travel service to the fourth quarter of 2022 and will not conduct another planned test flight this year.

Virgin Galactic said “Commercial service is now expected to begin in Q4 2022.” The company’s shares fell 13 per cent in later trading.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on September 2 barred Virgin Galactic from flying its SpaceShipTwo, which carried the British billionaire, until a report was completed in flight of a Virgin Galactic rocket plane. Richard Branson to the edge of space.

Branson was among six Virgin Galactic employees who participated in July flight, a flight of more than 50 miles (80 km) in space.

The FAA closed its September 29 accident investigation In a July 11 Virgin Galactic Unity 22 launch, which deviated from the assigned airspace on descent, and lifted a grounding order it had previously imposed.

Virgin Galactic said in September that it was planning another SpaceShipTwo flight from New Mexico, Unity 23, pending technical checks and weather. The company said last month that it expects to “open its flight window for Unity 23 in mid-October at the earliest.”

But Virgin Galactic said on Thursday that it will now begin its planned augmentation program first and conduct a Unity 23 test flight after it is completed and before starting commercial service.

The enhancement program is designed to improve vehicle performance and flight-rate capability.

The company said Thursday that a recent laboratory-based test “marked a potential reduction in the strength margin of some materials used to modify specific joints.”

The company said that “While the new lab test data had no effect on vehicles, our test flight protocols have clearly defined strength margins, and further analysis will assess whether to keep them at or above established levels.” Whether any additional work is required for this.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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