Virgin Galactic has announced that its commercial space tourism service has been delayed yet again, from the end of this year until Q2 2023. During its earnings report, the company said that the delay is "due to the extended completion dates [i.e., delays] within the mothership enhancement program."
The mothership VMS Eve is a crucial part of its launch system, carrying the VSS Unity spacecraft to 50,000 feet before it launches to the edge of space. The enhancement program launched July 7th with the aim of improving flight frequency, along with "reliability, predictability and durability."
At the same time it revealed the updates, Virgin Galactic announced that Boeing's Aurora Flight Sciences will design and manufacture its next-gen motherships, expected to enter service in 2025. The company is also working on a new spaceship, the VSS Imagine, set to make a debut test flight in Q1 2023.
Virgin Galactic had already delayed its first paid flights from Q3 to Q4 2022 out of an "abundance of caution" due to a possible flight control system issue. The next flight was supposed to launch three Italian Air Force members to the edge of space, to study the effects of transitioning from regular Earth gravity to microgravity on both humans and the environment. Yesterday, the company reported a $111 million quarterly loss and plans a $300 million stock offering.