Virgin Galactic delays next space flight to May amid ongoing engine troubles

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Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc (NYSE:SPCE) shares took a hit overnight after the commercial spaceflight firm delayed its next flight test to May, meaning it is unlikely to begin accepting passengers until 2022.


The firm had previously aimed to conduct a flight test around February 13 of its SpaceShipTwo vehicle after a previous test in December was cut short by an anomaly in its engines, most notably the onboard computer losing connection and preventing the ignition of the rocket motor. Preparations for the February test flight uncovered further issues resulting in the delay.


READ: Virgin Galactic hit by UBS downgrade after shares more than double in 2021


Despite this, Virgin said it has completed “significant build milestones” on a second spacecraft in preparation for a scheduled rollout on March 30, adding it has recruited two new pilots taking the total to eight prior to the next planned spaceflight in May.


The firm also said it is accelerating a multi-month enhancement program for its mothership vehicle, VMS Eve, as well as preparing for a second-generation mothership build program.


The firm also reported its results for the fourth quarter to December 31, which saw its adjusted (EBITDA) loss narrow slightly to US$60mln from US$66mln in the third quarter with zero revenue reported. The firm also ended the period with a cash balance of around US$666mln.


“We accomplished several significant milestones during 2020 despite the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic”, chief executive Michael Colglazier said in a statement.


“Looking ahead, we’re focused on completing our test flight program, expanding our fleet of spaceships and motherships, and developing our unique and transformative customer experience. I am excited about the talent we’re bringing on to our leadership team and the investments we’re making in the business, both of which will position us well to scale for future growth”, he added.

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