Virgin Galactic postpones first space tourism flight to spring 2023

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has announced it is pushing back its first commercial passenger flight to spring 2023. It was originally scheduled for late 2022. According to what the company announced on its latest earnings call, the first flights Virgin Galactic’s space tours are slated to begin in the second quarter of 2023.

The reason for the delays, the company announced on its last earnings call, relates to the refurbishment program for the VMS Eve aircraft, which is used to launch the VSS Unity spacecraft.

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

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic

According to Space.com, Virgin Galactic uses the VMS Eve carrier plane, which brings the VSS Unity spacecraft to an altitude of around 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). At this point, Unity pulls away and soars into suborbital space using rocket engines. VMS Eve upgrade work had been pushed back due to pandemic-related supply chain issues

“Our agreement with Aurora to develop new motherships, the selection of Phoenix as the location for our new spacecraft factory in Phoenix, and the acquisition of an incredible piece of land in New Mexico for our future astronaut campus are fundamental elements of how we will build and operate our Global Spaceline,” Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic. “Many of the key elements of our roadmap are now in place to significantly scale the business.”

The company that rivals Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin continues to push the start of its full business operation. Virgin Galactic had already suffered a delay on its previous flights.

The Unity 23 mission, intended for an investigation by the Italian Air Force, was supposed to take place between September and October 2021, but was postponed to this year and has yet to take place. After this flight, Virgin Galactic had planned to carry out a launch test with Unity 24, and only after Unity 25 to open the possibility for passengers having paid up to 450,000 USD to travel in space.

As we prepare to return to heaven, we have many powerful initiatives in place to ensure our long-term success.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic

With all the associated delays, the goal of getting tourists into space in the second quarter of 2023 seems somewhat ambitious. The company, however, seems confident that it can achieve this goal. Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, spoke about the new delay in commercial flights to space, he tried not to let it overshadow the company’s long-term plans.

It remains to be seen to what extent they will satisfy customers and shareholders. The new motherships that will be produced by Aurora, a subsidiary of Boeing, will not fly until at least 2025. And everything will also depend on how the development of the new Delta-class suborbital spacecraft, which will replace the current VSS Unity and the yet-to-be-released VSS Imagine, will progress and debut the same year.

Virgin Galactic has already said in advance that it is only in 2026 that it expects to have a positive cash flow. The figures it has presented in recent years are not to be taken lightly. Between 2020 and 2021, he took in just $3.5 million, against losses that reached $1 billion. In the second quarter of 2022, meanwhile, it lost another $111 million and the company is planning a stock offering of $300 million.