Science

Virgin Galactic Postpones First Scheduled Commercial Passenger Flight to 2023

Aspiring space tourists will have to wait a bit before heading into suborbital space with Virgin Galactic.

On Thursday (May 5), Virgin Galactic announced that commercial passenger service would be delayed a quarter to the first three months of 2023 “due to supply chain and workforce constraints.”

Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglaser noted that the company is “fixing most of these issues to minimize the impact on schedules,” but provided few details in a press release.

“We look forward to returning to space in the fourth quarter and launching commercial operations in the first quarter of next year,” Kolgazier said.

Currently, a seat aboard the VSS Unity space plane costs $450,000. As of November 2021, Virgin Galactic’s pool had approximately 700 customers registered and now reports a waiting list of 800.

Pictured: Virgin Galactic’s first fully manned space flight with Richard Branson.

Virgin Galactic’s first full-crew space flight took place in July 2021 with founder Richard Branson on board. After this flight, the company twice resumed selling tickets to customers for a short time, raising the price from pre-Branson’s $250,000.

VSS Unity takes off under the wings of a carrier aircraft called VMS Eve. When the pair reaches an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters), Unity falls freely and flies into suborbital space on its own rocket engine.

Up to six passengers and two pilots can go into suborbital space at the same time. VSS Unity has flown to the last mile four times so far, all of which have been test flights. Unity is currently on hold due to VMS Eve maintenance and improvement work, which is expected to continue until the middle of this year, the company said.

Thursday’s announcement was part of the release of Virgin Galactic’s quarterly financial results. The company reported a net loss of $93 million in the first quarter of 2022, compared to a net loss of $130 million in the first quarter of 2021. As of March 31, the company’s cash reserves stand at $1.22 billion, the statement said.

Rival Blue Origin, run by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, is already ferrying paying customers to and from suborbital space in its New Shepard autonomous vehicle. To date, the company has completed four manned space flights, the last of which took place on March 31. Blue Origin does not disclose ticket prices.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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