Virgin Galactic is dealing with yet more setbacks for its paid spaceflights. Reuters reports Virgin has delayed its first commercial research flight, Unity 23, to no sooner than mid-October. The mission was originally scheduled for late September or early October, but a supplier warned of a possible "manufacturing defect" in the flight control actuation system, Virgin said.
It's not certain if the defect is present in Virgin's vehicles or if any repairs are necessary. Virgin said it was only postponing the launch out of an "abundance of caution." The mission will see three Italian Air Force members study the effects of transitioning from regular Earth gravity to microgravity on both humans and the environment.
This wasn't connected to the FAA's investigation of a deviation from the cleared flight path, Virgin added. When the flight goes forward also depends on the FAA lifting a temporary ban on Virgin flights after it concludes the investigation.
It's not surprising Virgin would take an extra-careful approach. The company is still dealing with the repercussions of its 2014 crash, and it's under more pressure than ever now there are paying customers for research and, eventually, regular passengers. Delays like this may frustrate Virgin as it races to become a profitable business, but they may be worthwhile if they establish trust and lead to more customers.