Edinburgh, 19 October 2021. – On Monday, UBS analyst Myles Walton downgraded Virgin Galactic (ticker: SPCE) from Hold to Sell as the company is delaying commercial space flights. The news disappointed investors who had expected revenue-generating, commercial operations to start early next year.
Last week Virgin said they would reorganise their development and test flight schedule. Moreover, the company now announced the delay of the beginning of its commercial space tourism service to Q4 2022. The firm is to begin refurbishing and improving its spacecraft and carrier aircraft this month, which will take eight to 10 months, according to Virgin. The firm originally planned the “vehicle enhancement and modification” period for after the next spaceflight, Unity 23. However, the company said that a recent test flagged an issue with certain materials and these required further inspection. Virgin says that this is the right course of action as they have a safety-first-approach.
Unity 23 will take off after the enhancement process, with improved reliability, durability and reduced maintenance requirements, the company said. Virgin also had two other spaceflights, Unity 24 and 25, scheduled in but these no longer have public target dates.
Previously, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had grounded Virgin for almost a month to investigate an anomaly that occurred during their first spaceflight. The FAA then cleared the company for flight after agreeing on some necessary actions.