Virgin Galactic postpones the launch of a second suborbital spacecraft.

Second Suborbital Spaceship Delayed by Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Imagine, which will replace VSS Unity as its next suborbital spacecraft, won’t be ready for commercial operation until the end of 2023 while the business works to restart Unity’s flight and develop its Delta-class aircraft. Virgin Galactic is to thank.

WASHINGTON — Virgin Galactic’s second suborbital spaceplane won’t launch in 2023 as originally anticipated due to demands on business staff to both restart construction on a new generation of vehicles and restore the first spaceplane to flight.

Virgin Galactic’s CEO, Michael Colglazier, stated during a conference call to discuss the company’s earnings on November 3 that the company was “prioritising our resources” to get its SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity, back into service in the second quarter of 2023 while stepping up design work on the Delta-class of vehicles, which would not start flying until at least late 2025.

The pace of construction on our second spaceship, VSS Imagine, “will probably be impacted by these activities, and we are reevaluating its timeframe for entering commercial service,” he stated. He ruled out having that car available before the end of next year later in the conversation. “We won’t be in ’23 for Imagine’s commercial flights.”

Second Suborbital Spaceship Delayed by Virgin Galactic

The first of two “Spaceship III” vehicles, VSS Imagine, will be created by the corporation, along with VSS Inspire, according to plans released in March 2021. The vehicles have a similar appearance to the VSS Unity but have been improved in terms of design to reduce weight, fly six passengers as opposed to Unity’s four, and increase flight rate. The business stated at the time of the announcement that flight tests for Imagine would start later that summer.

However, the completion of Unity’s flight testing and the subsequent substantial renovation of VMS Eve, the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft that flew firm founder Richard Branson to space in July 2021, have caused a delay in the development of Imagine. The Delta-class spaceplanes and the next carrier aircraft have received increasing attention from the company at the same time.

Virgin Galactic previously stated that it expects Imagine to enter commercial service by the fourth quarter of 2023, a deferral from an original target of mid-2023, in its August results call. Work on the second vehicle, Inspire, has already been postponed by the corporation.

The company’s most seasoned engineers, who are working on projects like Unity and Eve or Delta-class design work, are under pressure, according to Colglazier, which is why there have been delays. They need engineers, but not just any engineers—they need the ones who have the most experience working on our current ships, and that kind of experience is scarce. “We must be careful to concentrate those highly skilled engineers on those two items.”

Second Suborbital Spaceship Delayed by Virgin Galactic

He stated that the pace at which the corporation advances these other initiatives and “how rapidly we’re able to pull folks back” to Imagine will determine when Imagine will be put into operation.

While creating a fleet of Delta-class vehicles is Virgin Galactic’s long-term goal, Imagine is crucial for revenue generation in the short to medium term. Imagine, with its two monthly flights and capacity for six passengers, will carry three times as many passengers as Unity, with its monthly flight capacity for four passengers.

According to Colglazier, the firm is still on track to commence commercial Unity flights in the second quarter of 2023. According to him, the spacecraft’s construction is finished, and improvements to Eve will be finished at a business location in Mojave, California, later this quarter. By the beginning of January, Eve will be prepared to resume flight, and she will soon make her way back to New Mexico’s Spaceport America.

Eve will enable a glide flight by Unity after it gets back to the spaceport, then a powered test flight with business workers on board. Before beginning flights for private astronauts in the second quarter of 2023, it will first execute a flight for the Italian Air Force.

Second Suborbital Spaceship Delayed by Virgin Galactic

After giving part of its original 1,000 seats to Virtuoso to sell and reserving some for research, Virgin Galactic has “closed our efforts on sales” of those seats. Axiom Space, a firm that is developing a commercial space station, and the business signed an agreement on November 3 to fly a microgravity research and training trip in 2023 that will prepare an Axiom astronaut for an upcoming orbital flight.

Colglazer predicted that the firm would resume ticket sales after Unity starts operating commercial flights in 2019. However, he continued, the backlog of customers for the business is “moving into four years.”

With revenue of $767,000, Virgin Galactic recorded a net loss of $146 million for the third quarter. At the end of the third quarter, the company had $1.1 billion in cash and cash equivalents on hand.

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