Virgin Galactic delays space tourism flights until Q4 2022

Not long ago, Virgin Galactic celebrated the completion of its first flight sending a civilian crew into orbit. However, there were problems with that flight when the spacecraft ventured outside its designated airspace, causing the FAA to ground Virgin Galactic until an investigation was completed. Eventually, the company was cleared to resume operations, but another delay has now hit Virgin Galactic.The company is delaying the launch of its commercial space tourism service until Q4 2022. That means it will be approximately a year before the next spaceflight, Unity 23, takes off. According to a spokesperson for the company, Virgin Galactic is beginning work to refurbish and improve its spacecraft and the associated carrier aircraft.

That process will take between eight and ten months, with completion expected to happen sometime next summer. The refurbishment is known as an "enhancement" period and was initially supposed to occur after Unity 23. However, the refurbishment was pushed up after tests discovered a potential loss of strength margins in certain materials used to modify specific joints of the aircraft.

Virgin Galactic said after that testing, its vehicles required additional physical inspections. The company is beginning inspections of the VSS Unity and carrier aircraft known as VMS Eve this month. While Virgin maintains its approach is the best for its business, it wasn't good for its stock.

Virgin Galactic shares declined as much as 13 percent, closing at $24.06 per share. As of closing on Thursday, the decline means the stock is up only one percent for 2021. With Unity 23 being delayed until at least the middle of 2022, future spaceflights Unity 24 and Unity 25 previously scheduled for late 2022 have been scrubbed with no new launch date announced.