Virgin Galactic delays space tourism flights to early 2022

SpaceShip 3, however will be revealed in March.

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Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo Unity flying near Spaceport America
Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic's hopes for space tourism in 2021 were looking dim after a motor ignition failure in December 2020 pushed back its test flight schedule, and now the company is ditching any hopes of meeting that target. Parabolic Arc reports that Virgin used its latest earnings to delay space tourism flights to 2022. During a call, company CEO Michael Colglazier said the next rocket-powered test flight now wouldn't occur until May, roughly half a year after the original attempt — tourist trips just weren't going to happen in 2021 with the updated timetable.

The chief executive expected subsequent test flights to take place in the summer, including one with four people in the cabin as well as Sir Richard Branson's long-expected ride. A "revenue generating" flight with Italian Air Force pilots should take place in the summer or fall. After those, both the current SpaceShipTwo and its WhiteKnightTwo host aircraft would spend four months receiving upgrades.

There's news to look forward to in the near term. Virgin confirmed that it would reveal its next spacecraft, SpaceShip 3, on March 30th. There's not much to see beyond the enigmatic teaser you see below, but Virgin is clearly readying for a day when it's regularly taking paying passengers to space.

The delay will clearly hurt the company's bottom line, though. While it's improving its fortunes and has $666 million in cash, Virgin still lost $74 million in the last quarter of 2020. It clearly can't afford many more setbacks without running into trouble.

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