Virgin Galactic announced it will delay the start of commercial space travel until 2021, citing issues with the company’s SpaceShipTwo. The company has also stopped accepting reservations for flights on its suborbital vehicle, which was slated to launch in 2019.
Virgin Galactic, the company founded by billionaire Sir Richard Branson, said yesterday that it would delay the commencement of commercial space flights until the fourth quarter of 2022 and will not perform any further test flights this year.
“Commercial service is now scheduled to begin in Q4 2022,” the private space exploration firm announced on Thursday. According to Reuters, its stock market shares fell 13% in after-hours trade.
During a successful test flight on July 11, Branson and five other Virgin Galactic workers successfully reached the edge of space aboard the Unity 22—the company’s fourth rocket-powered space launch.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) therefore prohibited Virgin Galactic from operating its SpaceShipTwo until an investigation into the July 11 trip, which transported six crew members more than 50 miles into space, was completed.
The FAA concluded its inquiry and removed its grounding order on September 29, which had been issued when Unity 22 strayed from allocated airspace during its descent in New Mexico. On the way down, it seems that a high-altitude wind pushed the plane off course for a little less than two minutes.
Virgin Galactic stated in September that it will launch another SpaceShipTwo voyage, Unity 23, from its New Mexico base, pending technical tests and weather conditions. The firm stated last month that the earliest it could open its “flight window for Unity 23” would be in mid-October.
PHOTO: Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity’s six-passenger cabin. (Virgin Galactic courtesy)
However, the firm stated on Thursday that it would now begin its improvement program first, followed by the Unity 23 test flight after that project is finished and commercial service is launched. According to Reuters, the upgrade effort aims to increase vehicle performance and flight-rate capabilities.
One recent laboratory test “indicated a potential decrease in the strength margins of some materials utilized to alter certain joints,” Virgin Galactic stated in its statement.
“New lab test data has had no effect on the vehicles,” it said, “our test flight procedures have clearly defined strength margins, and further study will determine if any further work is needed to maintain them at or beyond stated levels.”
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Virgin Galactic, the company that was supposed to start commercial space travel in 2018, has postponed it’s launch. The company said that they are still working on getting their spacecraft ready for flight. Reference: virgin galactic yahoo finance.