Virgin Galactic delays first commercial passenger flight to spring 2023

Virgin Galactic is pushing back its first space tourism mission for another three months.

Announcing Suborbital Space Tourism Provider Virgin Galactic (opens in a new tab) Thursday (August 4) that it will again postpone the start of its commercial service until the second quarter of 2023, due to upgrade delays to the company’s mothership, VSS Eve.

Virgin Galactic sends paying passengers into space with two vehicles. It uses the VMS Eve carrier aircraft, which brings the VSS Unity spacecraft to an altitude of approximately 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). At this point, Unity pulls away and soars into suborbital space using rocket engines.

Upgrade work on Eve had already been pushed back due to pandemic-related supply chain issues. That said, Virgin has made other infrastructure announcements in recent weeks. One example is a new astronaut training facility near Spaceport America, Virgin’s main launch site.

In picture : Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed spaceflight with Richard Branson

In June, Virgin also signed a deal with Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to build two new motherships that will enter service in 2025, to support a fleet of new ‘Delta-class’ spaceplanes due to fly. once a week. Paying customers will be able to fly on the Delta fleet as early as 2026.

“While our near-term plans now call for the launch of commercial service in the second quarter of 2023, progress on our future fleet continues and many key elements of our roadmap are now in place to scale the business from significantly,” Virgin CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement. (opens in a new tab) announcing the company’s second quarter financial results for fiscal year 2022.

Virgin reported a net loss of $111 million in the second quarter, compared to $94 million in the second quarter of 2021, with free cash of $1.1 billion as of June 30.

Other announcements in the quarter include a Delta manufacturing plant in Mesa, Arizona, to build up to six spacecraft per year starting in late 2023, and a partnership with luxury travel company Virtuoso to offer some bookings. among Virgin’s top 1,000 seats. (About 800 people were already on the waitlist before this deal, Virgin said.) A seat on VSS Unity currently costs $450,000.

Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic’s biggest competitor for the suborbital space market, has flown into space six times with passengers on board. The most recent flight happened coincidentally on the same day as Virgin’s results, August 4, sending six more people into space aboard the NS-22 mission.

VSS Unity has completed four spaceflights to date, most recently in July 2021. But none of those missions were operational sightseeing flights.

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