Virgin Galactic shares dive on delay of first commercial flight

Virgin Galactic shares dive on delay of first commercial flight

Shares in space tourism company Virgin Galactic tumbled on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday after announcing the postponement of its first commercial flight, originally scheduled for the third quarter of 2022.

In electronic trading before Wall Street opened, Virgin Galactic shares were down by more than 20 percent.

In a statement on Thursday, the company had said that an upgrade program for its VMS Eve and VSS Unity spacecraft, aimed at strengthening the safety of the devices, would begin a month late.

A recent laboratory test revealed “a possible reduction in the strength margins of certain materials used to modify specific joints, and this requires further physical inspection,” Virgin Galactic said.

As a result, the company’s first commercial flight is now scheduled for the fourth quarter of next year.

“Our decisions are driven by detailed and thorough analysis, and we fly based on the most accurate and comprehensive data available,” said chief executive Michael Colglazier.

The company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson said the delay was not related to a potential manufacturing defect, revealed in September and which it says it has resolved.

The US aviation regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration, also lifted its no-fly order on Virgin Galactic last month after an investigation into an abnormal trajectory during a July takeoff.

The FAA had accused the company of not providing the necessary information about the flight in which Branson participated.

Agence France-Presse

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