Virgin Galactic re-revises commercial launch date

First "Future Astronauts" first spaceflight delayed until Q1 2023

SpaceShip III | Source: Virgin Galactic/Facebook

Virgin Galactic has confirmed yet another delay for its first commercial space flight, pushed back at least three months until Q1 2023. The company will however send another test spaceflight upwards before the end of the year.

In its latest trading update, Virgin Galactic Holdings said demand for ticket sales – which reopened for sale at US$450,000 per seat just a few months ago – have remained strong, with approximately 800 future astronaut reservations now on the books.

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The publically-listed company is injecting funds into the accelerated development of its “Delta class spaceship fleet and next-generation motherships”, the goal of which is “improved durability and reliability of current ships, and enabling higher frequency flight rate,” Virgin Galactic said. Negotiations with a preferred supplier to produce the next-gen motherships are ongoing.

Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic said: “We are executing on our plans to scale the business by developing our future fleet, investing in digital manufacturing technologies, and building out our commercial strategy to deliver a consumer experience like no other.”

“Against a backdrop of escalating supply chain and labour constraints, our teams are containing the majority of these issues to minimise impact on schedules. We look forward to returning to space in the fourth quarter and launching commercial service in the first quarter of next year.”

During the first quarter of 2022, Virgin Galactic recorded a net loss of US$93 million. That compares to a US$130 million net loss in the first quarter of 2021.

As if to rub salt into the wounds of Virgin Galactic, in the days proceeding its market update, rival space tourism operator Blue Origin confirmed the customers and crew of its fifth “human flight” under the New Shepard program. Among those next six space-travellers will be the first Mexican-born woman to fly to space, former NASA staffer Katya Echazarreta.

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