Virgin Galactic delays the start of its paid spaceflights to the end of 2022

Unity 23 won't fly until mid-2022 at the earliest.

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Virgin Group's Founder billionaire Richard Branson (L) and Burt Rutan, president of Scaled Composites, wave from the window of Virgin Galactic's mothership WhiteKnightTwo during its public roll-out in Mojave, California July 28, 2008. The twin fuselage aircraft WhiteKnightTwo will carry SpaceShipTwo to launch commercial passengers into space.  REUTERS/Fred Prouser  (UNITED STATES)
Fred Prouser / reuters

Virgin Galactic has suffered yet another setback. On Thursday, the company told CNBC it has delayed the start of its commercial space tourism service to the fourth quarter of 2022. It had previously hoped to begin offering paid spaceflights sometime in the third quarter of next year.

With the delay, the company will begin refurbishing both its carrier airplane and spacecraft this month. Virgin Galactic says it expects the entire process should take between eight to 10 months. As a result of the move, Unity 23, the company’s next flight, won’t take off until mid-2022 at the earliest.

“The re-sequencing of our enhancement period and the Unity 23 flight underscores our safety-first procedures, provides the most efficient path to commercial service, and is the right approach for our business and our customers,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement.

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Not now

The delay is not connected to the recent investigation the FAA conducted into Unity 22, the flight that took Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson to the edge of space. The federal agency cleared the company for future flights after completing the investigation. 

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