Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has announced that it’s pushing its first commercial passenger flight to spring 2023. It was originally scheduled for the end of 2022. According to what the company announced during its most recent financial results call, the first Virgin Galactic space tourism flights are expected to start in the second quarter of 2023.
The reason for the delays, the company announced during its most recent financial results call, are linked to the refurbishment program of the VMS Eve aircraft, which is used to launch the VSS Unity spacecraft.
While our short-term plans now call for commercial service to launch in the second quarter of 2023, progress on our future fleet continuesMichael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic
According to Space.com, Virgin Galactic uses the carrier aircraft VMS Eve, which brings the spaceship VSS Unity to an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). At that point, Unity drops away and soars to suborbital space using rocket engines. Upgrade work on VMS Eve had been pushed back due to pandemic-related supply chain issues
“Our agreement with Aurora to develop new motherships, selection of Phoenix as the location for our new Spaceship factory in Phoenix, and acquisition of an incredible land parcel in New Mexico for our Future Astronaut Campus are cornerstone 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 scale the business in a meaningful way.”
The company that rivals Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin continues to push the start of its full commercial activity further ahead. Virgin Galactic had already suffered a delay in its previous flights.
The Unity 23 mission, destined for an Italian Air Force investigation, was to take place between September and October 2021, but was postponed until this year and has not yet taken place. After that flight, Virgin Galactic had planned to carry out a test launch with Unity 24, and only after Unity 25 to open the the possibility for those passengers who have paid up to $450,000 USD to travel to space.
As we prepare to return to the skies, we have put in place many powerful initiatives to drive our long-term success.Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic
With all the associated delays, the goal of taking tourists into space in the second quarter of 2023 seems somewhat ambitious. The company, however, seems convinced that it can meet that goal. Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, referred to the new delay of commercial flights to space, he tried not to let it overshadow the company’s long-term plans.
It remains to be seen how far they will satisfy customers and shareholders. The new motherships to be produced by Aurora, a Boeing subsidiary, 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 that same year.
Virgin Galactic has already said in advance that it is only in 2026 that it expects to be cash flow positive. The numbers it has presented in recent years are not to be taken lightly. Between 2020 and 2021 it only took in $3.5 million, against losses that reached $1 billion. In the second quarter of 2022, meanwhile, it lost another $111 million, and the company plans a $300 million stock offering.