Virgin Galactic again delays first commercial flight


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Capitalism in space: Virgin Galactic, which has been repeatedly delaying its first commercial flight for more than a decade, has done so again, stating that it will not occur until 2021.

The company, in its fiscal second quarter financial results released Aug. 3, said it expected to perform two more test flights of SpaceShipTwo from Spaceport America in New Mexico, both of which will be powered flights. The vehicle has made two glide flights since moving to the spaceport early this year.

The first of those powered flights, scheduled for the fall, will have two pilots on board. It will also carry payloads for NASA’s Flight Opportunities program that arranges flights of experiments on suborbital vehicles, said George Whitesides, chief space officer and former chief executive of Virgin Galactic, in a company earnings call.

If that flight goes as expected, Virgin Galactic will then perform a second flight, this time with four mission specialists on board along with the two pilots. Those mission specialists “will evaluate the performance of our full customer cabin and associated hardware,” he said. The company unveiled the design of the cabin July 28, although Whitesides said they were still completing the installation of the cabin on the company’s current SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity.

“Presuming things go as expected on this fully-crewed flight, we would then plan to fly Sir Richard Branson on the third powered flight from New Mexico,” he said. That flight would take place in the first quarter of 2021 and mark the beginning of commercial service, although Whitesides said it will also be a test flight of sorts. “Sir Richard is in a unique position to provide the ultimate cabin and spaceflight experience evaluation, as a visionary of the Virgin customer experience.”

The company also announced that it intends to sell stock shares to raise more capital. Right now the stock is selling for about $20.

I am no expert on the stock market, but to my mind this company’s chances of making big profits from suborbital flights is slim to none. They might make some money, but hardly enough ever to repay their investors. Virgin Galactic’s window for making big money in suborbital tourism closed forever with the success of SpaceX’s manned Dragon flight to ISS. The space tourism market is shifting to orbital space, something Virgin Galactic cannot provide. Worse, the cost for getting to orbit continues to drop, while this company can’t reduce its prices much.

Virgin Galactic provides a weak product in the present market, one that can only become weaker when compared to its competitors.

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3 comments

  • LocalFluff

    It’s as if some space flight projects aim at the event horizon of a black hole. The closer they get, the slower they move. From our perspective, nothing will ever cross the horizon to become an event. Still, the black hole is somehow there already and accretes masses of monies for eternity.

  • Chris

    To save space Bob from here on out just put in the title “Virgin Galactic”.
    We will know it’s another delay.

  • Andy R

    Let’s see… SpaceX launched its Crew Dragon ‘Endeavour’ in May and after 2 months docked to ISS it splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico. Two days later its SN5 prototype does a 150 meter hop.

    Blue Origin – nothing since December.

    NASA/Boeing SLS – delayed yet again.

    Virgin Galactic SpceShipTwo – delayed yet again

    And Virgin Galactic just released the design of a 19 passenger, Mach 3 jet. Considering how long it takes VG to build and test things, it should be flying passengers somewhere around 2060, if they haven’t been driven to bankruptcy by Starships doing ballistic hops all over the planet.

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