Virgin Galactic delays launch of commercial space tourism

Virgin Galactic this week announced that its commercial space tourism program was postponed until the end of 2022. The company is launching its planned “upgrade program” for the VSS Unity spacecraft and the VMS Eve carrier aircraft.

Designed to “improve vehicle performance and flight speed capability”, the program includes routine analysis to predict how materials will perform under certain conditions. A recent test, the company said, reported a “possible reduction in strength margins of certain materials used to modify specific joints.”

These results, according to Virgin Galactic, have “no impact” on the vehicles themselves, but an investigation will reveal whether further work is needed to keep them at or above established strength margins.

“Our decisions are driven by detailed and in-depth analysis, and we fly on the basis of the most accurate and comprehensive data available,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement. “[Our] the vehicles are designed with significant safety margins, offering layers of protection that far exceed the loads experienced and expected on our flights. “

Once all upgrades are complete, Virgin Galactic will conduct its next test flight, Unity 23, carrying members of the Italian Air Force. The company aims to start commercial services in the last quarter of 2022.

“The rescheduling of our improvement period and Unity Flight 23 underscores our safety-oriented procedures, provides the most efficient route to commercial service and is the right approach for our business and our customers,” said Colglazier.

In June, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave Virgin the green light to transport paying customers to the limit of space. A few weeks later, the company successfully completed its first test flight with a full crew, including founder Richard Branson.

Those who wish to follow in Branson’s (or Jeff Bezos or William Shatner’s) footsteps can now book Virgin Galactic space tourism travel, starting at $ 450,000 per seat.

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