On Saturday, practically two full years after its final powered flight, Virgin Galactic tried to ship its glossy Space Ship Two house aircraft on simply its third suborbital flight above 80km.
However, shortly after the house aircraft was launched from its service plane, named White Knight Two, the ignition sequence to mild the house aircraft’s motor didn’t full. As a consequence, the rocket motor failed to fireside, and the 2 pilots on board safely glided the automobile again to a runway in New Mexico moderately than hovering above the environment.
This flight got here nearly precisely two years after the corporate’s first profitable suborbital flight in Decembe r2018 and 22 months since its second suborbital flight in February 2019. Since then, Virgin Galactic has been transferring its operations from California to New Mexico, modifying the inside of Space Ship Two‘s cabin for passenger flights, and promising stockholders it will quickly start industrial flights and improve its cadence of operations.
Prior to Saturday’s flight attempt, Virgin Galactic’s stock had closed at $32.04 per share. When the New York Stock Exchange opened on Monday, the stock dropped about 15 %, beginning the day at $27.11. It was buying and selling barely increased following the opening.
The firm had sought to allay the fears of traders with a information launch issued Monday morning, earlier than the stock market opened. It framed the failure as a validation of the spacecraft’s security engineering and mentioned Virgin Galactic would quickly return to the skies.
“As we do with each take a look at flight, we’re evaluating all the information, together with the foundation trigger evaluation of the pc communication loss,” Michael Colglazier, the chief govt of Virgin Galactic, mentioned within the launch. “We stay up for sharing data on our subsequent flight window within the close to future.”
Prior to this weekend, the corporate had set out a reasonably rigorous schedule. This would have included one other suborbital flight with 4 mission specialists flying contained in the SpaceShipTwo cabin to make sure its readiness for industrial operations. This was to be adopted by a closing take a look at flight, carrying Virgin Galactic’s founder, Richard Branson, through the first quarter of 2021. After this level, the corporate meant to start flying industrial missions with paying prospects. It shouldn’t be now clear how this schedule can be affected.
Although the corporate’s slick renderings of the cabin inside present six seats, there are solely 4 seats within the first model of Space Ship Two. The automobile is simply too heavy, and it lacks the efficiency to hold six passengers along with its two pilots. It is feasible that future variations of the spacecraft will be capable to deal with six passengers, permitting the corporate to extend its income from every flight.
Saturday’s flight additionally should have confirmed to be a bitter disappointment for Spaceport America and the state of New Mexico the place it’s based mostly. The state has invested greater than $200 million to draw and retain Virgin Galactic, and waited practically a decade for this primary powered flight. It will now have to attend just a little longer.