Virgin Galactic postpones the departure of its commercial space flights to Q4 2022

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As the year draws to a close and the recent NS-18 mission of Blue Origin was a success, less encouraging news is coming from Jeff Bezos’ main competitor, Virgin Galactic. The company was indeed forced to revise its schedule for 2022. Its space tourism service will not be able to take off as planned. It will be necessary to wait until the fourth quarter of 2022 for the first commercial flight of the firm, which will coincide with the Unity 25 mission.

The company has thus announced a reorganization of its development program. Improvements to the VSS Unity spacecraft are planned. They could last between 8 and 10 months. Virgin originally planned to complete the Unity 23 test mission before starting work, but some recent testing has shown a possible resistance issue with some materials used in structural joints. The work will affect both the VSS Unity and the VMS Eve transport aircraft. As this is a reliability issue, they cannot be postponed any further. There will therefore be no more flights before mid-2022. The announcement sent the stock price plunging on Wall Street.

Virgin Galactic: space tourism will have to wait
Virgin Galactic: space tourism will have to wait – Geeko The VSS Unity spacecraft made its first flight with passengers this Sunday, July 11, 2021.

Flight safety in question

The decision by the FAA, the civil aviation regulatory agency in the United States, to shut down Virgin Galactic operations for the entire month of September also contributed to the delay. The stop was imposed in order to investigate the incident during the maiden flight, in which Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin, participated. The spacecraft had deviated from reserved airspace during the return to earth phase, jeopardizing the safety of the crew, and Virgin had not communicated properly about the operation. The month-long shutdown allowed Virgin to update communications protocols.

Virgin Galactic: space tourism will have to wait
Virgin Galactic: Space tourism will have to wait – Geeko The dearMoon project will be the first private space flight around the moon.

2021 has been a particularly important year for the space tourism and it’s not over yet. Indeed, the trip to the ISS of Japanese billionaire Maezawa is maintained for December. The dearMoon project is still scheduled for 2023. It will be the first private space flight around the moon.

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